I am a big fan of writing, I love reading great writing regardless of whether I agree with it or not and I truly believe that the best writing should be celebrated whenever found. This week MTV News effectively shut down its current operations in order to redirect its focus towards video and short form content. Basically, MTV wants to get in on the ADD quick hit industrial complex that prizes cutesy, attention-grabbing 30 second videos over actual quality and labored over writing.
This news comes on the same week that Complex’s interview series Everyday Struggle went viral over a confrontation between its host Joe Budden and Migos happened on the air. Everyday Struggle is the textbook example of everything worth hating about media today: a show where middling (at best) rapper, Joe Budden, and sentient twitter parody account, DJ Akademiks, yell at each other and at guests for any number of minutes. It is the rap version of First Take and as low brow and shameless as it is, it’s brilliant. A cranky rapper complaining about rap next to an easy punching bag isn’t intriguing or quality but it is entertaining and succeeds at inspiring both hatred and love –which work the same as far as online traffic goes. For as much as Everyday Struggle personally disgusts me, it is an indicator of where all of media is headed. Easily digestible and shameless content that focuses on “takes” and panders to large masses of people; garnering strong reactions (positive or negative) is an easy sell and good content for companies that purely want to make as much money as possible. It’s getting harder and harder for journalism and great writing to fit in this incredibly cynical climate.
I don’t know anything about teens but I know that when I was a teen I read my dad’s copies of GQ and Esquire all the time. It’s what made me want to be a writer and when the blog era began, I used Livejournal, Myspace and Blogger as my training grounds for writing longform content about music and movies. The teens of today turn to Tumblr now for the same thing. The idea that teens are not interested in good, interesting writing feels disingenuous. There’s no doubt that video content is all the rage but the two things can coexist and this latest plan to forgo good writing feels extremely cynical and dismissive of the very audience that MTV hopes to appeal to. Regardless of whether it.s video, essays or a page full of giant, flashy gifs to catch the eye and/or cause epilepsy, treating your audience like its stupid never works out in the long run. MTV News marks the second time a site that had grown dear to my heart thanks to its dedication to good writing and interesting subjects has been dissolved thanks bottom lines and money-hungry corporate execs (the first was Grantland). It’s incredibly sad and it makes you feel like there’s no point in being good at your craft when lowest common denominator trash is more talked about and coveted than the best writing out.
2017 has been the worst year for me as a freelance writer. The editors I once worked with have left their respective jobs or the new ones I talk to are either unresponsive or more fickle with who they give assignments to. Despite my snarkiness and the disdain I show towards media on Twitter, I blame no one for this but myself. Media is an extremely tough gig and it takes more than talent to stay afloat. It takes networking, insightfulness and strategy. There are a million writers out there and many of them have thought the same pitches that you have; it’s up to you to find that unique angle to set you apart and connect with the particular audience of the site you’re pitching to. Not getting work out there has been extremely difficult and frustrating but more than anything else, I miss working with good editors who made me better at what I do. That to me was the most satisfying part of the writing process: having that person there who could take your words and make them better, more thoughtful, more detailed and beautiful. I don’t know where writing online will take me or if I’ll ever break out of this funk and have my words on more sites, but I hope and pray that I will work with editors again to be better at my craft. I do not believe in accepting the new normal of easy controversy and reaction bait; I still believe being a good writer is worth it and the words of the best of us will last when all the disposable content has been forgotten.