Every time I open Facebook, I see them. My timeline is filled with articles from college “journalism” sites like The Tab and The Odyssey. While these sites are presenting a platform for students to share their voice and churn out posts every few hours, they cannot be considered journalistic.
Allowing students with unique perspectives to share their thoughts with a larger audience is a wonderful step for opening a dialogue. However, often times the quality of the content suffers in favor of a quick read or, more importantly, clickbait.
The field of journalism has seen a huge shift in the last 10 years as social media platforms and websites like Twitter and Buzzfeed, both founded in 2006, have risen in popularity. People no longer have to wait for the next day’s paper to read about breaking news. They can simply open an app on their phone and read what they want to know. The field of traditional journalism is still trying to find its foothold in this new territory.
Buzzfeed is a wonderful example of providing fun, viral posts while maintaining the integrity of a reliable, true journalistic platform. Readers can take a quiz to see how “emo” they are on one page but can also read about the ATP Tennis scandal that Buzzfeed and BBC News exposed earlier this year.
Websites like The Tab and The Odyssey have not integrated investigative journalism with their more fun articles. Instead, they forgo the investigative journalism for subpar posts.
The first problem is that they present themselves as journalistic platforms.
The Tab US “Who We Are” page, claims that “The world needs more of this kind of journalism. By teaching young people to report on their own worlds, we are resurrecting local news for a new age.”
The journalism they’re referring to? An 87-word post filled with typos and almost no editing.
The Tab sent out an email to UCI Humanities students encouraging them to write for their website and to “know the value of real journalism.” Their content, which is superficial at best, contradicts this goal. Students sign up hoping to start building an online portfolio to take to future employers but instead present work that is minimal in value. With so many changes to the field of journalism, students are expected to come into a job with experience and publishing online is the best way to do that because that is the direction journalism is headed. However, the most extensive post I’ve seen on the website has only been about 300 words. The posts aren’t actual articles about anything substantial or newsworthy.
The Odyssey has a different problem. While their presentation of changing the face of journalism holds much less arrogance than The Tab, their outlook on journalism is also skewed. Their goal is to showcase millennial voices and gear their content for millennials in the technological age. I must have missed the memo where millennials became a different species. We may receive our news differently than generations have in the past, but that shouldn’t change the type of news we receive.
For example, when you search “UCI” on the Orange County Register website, you see articles about UCI protests and coverage of the 50th anniversary celebration. These articles would be so much more effectively written by students that are living through this news. Instead, The Odyssey posts lists like “Why UCI Is Actually the Greatest School in the World,” which aside from not being very convincing, does nothing to project students’ voices and inform them on what goes on around campus.
This election year has showed how older generations feel they need a special strategy to reach millennials instead of appealing to us as intelligent, informed voters. Millennials are smarter than they are given credit for, but any ignorance that older generations feel they may have comes from the type of “news” sources that water down our media consumption. The Odyssey’s pride in being a social platform for millennials runs the risk of narrowing other perspectives and only providing content they think millennials want to see. Sometimes journalism is uncomfortable and when websites only post things they assume their audience wants to read it further isolates students from a bigger picture.
Let me be clear, I am fully supportive of students sharing their voices. I may be biased, but I think we’re an interesting group.
But we don’t need news changed or manipulated to reach us and we don’t need gimmicks or clickbait to grab our attention. We need quality content that is reliable and realistic. Sites that are run for college students and by college students are a wonderful opportunity to write about quality stories that matter. Gaining experience in the world of journalism is difficult, but posting on sites like The Tab and The Odyssey is no different than writing a blog and calling it a New York Times article.
Caitlin Antonios is a first year Literary Journalism and English double-major. She can be reached at email@example.com.