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7 Ways Librarians are Superior to Clickbait Journalists

Last week I was so struck by our erstwhile library supporter’s belief that he had “the truth” so he never listened to anything Stephen Hawking said because Hawking didn’t have “the truth,” that I never bothered to track down the article on librarian extinction that started his rant.

He didn’t link to it. Links have been standard practice on the internet for at least 20 years, but possibly he didn’t know that. If you have “the truth,” you don’t need knowledge.

This might be the article, since it mentions the impending demise of both librarians and “word processors,” as if that’s ever been a job title.

The immediate thing that struck me was the complete lack of evidence, data, knowledge, or logic within the article. That plus the headline makes it nothing more than clickbait journalism, even if it is in such an august institution as USA Today.

Since we’re about to go the way of buggy whip manufacturers, perhaps we librarians can wile away our time pondering the world of clickbait journalists.

Real journalism, as we’ve been constantly reminded by real journalists, is on the demise. Nobody wants to pay for it, which is why the much cheaper clickbait journalism is taking its place.

Real journalism is bad enough as it is. Journalists aren’t usually experts on what they cover, so they’re writing is necessarily shallow, although if they work the same beat long enough they may get to some level of expertise eventually. Then they’re promoted and we start again.

They interview experts, ask for responses they’ll report only if the responses are immediate, throw in opinions from fools if that’s all they can find opposing the experts – either because they must have balance or they don’t know any better – toss in a little background if there’s a relevant Wikipedia article, and move on to the next story.

Much of the time, even in the best of newspapers, the articles are of pseudo-news. “This might be bad for the GOP.” The White House is expected to announce something.” It might be bad, which means might not be. That’s not news. When the White House makes the announcement, then there’s news. The rest is just filler.

Sometimes they say they’re giving us the “first rough draft of history.” As any experienced writer knows, the first rough draft is usually riddled with errors, problems, and omissions. So it’s an apt quote.

And that’s the good stuff.

Clickbait journalism is like real journalism, only without even the motivation to get the story as right as possible in the short time allotted, or even have a story worth telling. Their only goal, for which they’re understandably paid very modestly, is to churn out articles for stupid and/ or bored people to click on to briefly fill their empty minds.

There’s no passion here. These people aren’t dedicated to their profession. Many are slightly ashamed of what they do. They’re often young, and while ignorant still smart enough to know they produce garbage for pennies.

I’ve read tales of woe from clickbait journalists and escapees, the implication often being that they only do the work for the money and would rather do something less shameful. The poor dears.

Sometimes they pick on the librarians, so let’s compare the two. Here are some differences.

  1. Librarians don’t compromise themselves for money. They like to get paid, but clearly they didn’t become librarians to make a lot of money, or the enter a lower rung hoping one day they’d make the big bucks doing honorable work. They never “sold out.” Many of them believe they’d rather do something worth doing for lower pay than something not worth doing at all.
  2. Librarians serve the public good. Making sure that relevant and important information is collected, organized, and made accessible is the ultimate goal, and more often than not librarians get it right.
  3. Librarians educate people. They’re devoted to thoroughness and accountability in information. They prefer accuracy to speed, and often achieve both.
  4. Librarians have no reason to be ashamed of their work. A lot of librarians are desperate for recognition, or resentful the public doesn’t know what they do, or even bored by their work, but I’ve never heard of a librarian being ashamed of what they do. Why? See the first three entries in this list.
  5. Librarianship is an ancient profession. Whether it was the Library at Alexandria, medieval religious libraries, or the modern libraries we have today, librarians have been around tending to them. Librarians won’t disappear until libraries do, and that will be a long while.
  6. Librarians care about what they do. Care is a rare thing in the workplace. They’re not just there to sell a widget or get eyes on ads. Librarians want to make the world a little bit better place than they found it, and they usually do.
  7. People tax themselves to pay for libraries and librarians. In clickbait journalism jargon, they’ve learned to monetize their use, except even the people do don’t use libraries like them.

Those are a few differences between librarians and clickbait journalists, but I think they’re significant.

So it’s a little amusing to see some clickbait journalist decide to predict the demise, within a paltry ten years no less, of a profession that’s been chugging along just fine for many hundreds of years.

I almost feel sorry for the clickbait journalists, with their hourly deadlines to produce sensationalistic listicles that nobody reads except for the headlines and list headings. But they could all do something else, so I don’t.

Their profession might outlast that of librarianship, but I seriously doubt it. Either way, there’s no doubt about which profession has done more good for the world with more dedication and less compromise to its integrity.

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Comments

  1. Sadly, though, you get people who may have an influence on libraries read the clickbait about the demise of libraries and librarians and believe it. Those of us in academic libraries may have campus administrators read things like that and think they can whittle away the library “because everything’s on the internet now” and by having a mostly or all digital library they can cut staff and move money toward other things on campus.

    • Jane Dearie says:

      When someone tells me everything is on the internet, I say, sweetly, good luck finding things. Sadly, some administrator’s just want the latest and greatest and don’t consider what serves the students best. That should be the only question. Recall that Cushing Academy Library, MA removed all printed material in 2009 so they could be “all digital for the 21st century”. In 2014, a new (and possibly improved?) administration hired a librarian to rebalance the collection and restore print resources. Read about his experience here:
      http://www.maschoolibraries.org/newsletter/reintroducing-printed-books-to-the-cushing-academy-library
      If the best an administrator can do is to cut staff/service/materials to fund something else, they are ineffectual, uncreative, and probably cutting them would be the best option. The administrator at Cushing who removed all print was himself removed.

    • This actually happened at my library. It was already in the planning stages to take half of our space for tutoring and athlete services when we were finally told. One of the arguments that the VP made was that he could get all of his favorite author’s works on his phone so why did we need all those books? I had never heard of this author and when I looked him up he was a late 19th/early 20th century author whose works are all public domain. No one wanted to listen to our arguments that not everything is online and free. Library staff had to do book shifting, weeding and other moving tasks. We never got the promised help in moving the remaining books and dismantling the empty shelves. We have maybe a third of our old physical collection now. Most of our collection is now ebooks but students and faculty don’t want to use them.

  2. Jane Dearie says:

    When someone tells me everything is on the internet, I say, sweetly, good luck finding things. Sadly, some administrator’s just want the latest and greatest and don’t consider what serves the students best. That should be the only question. Recall that Cushing Academy Library, MA removed all printed material in 2009 so they could be “all digital for the 21st century”. In 2014, a new (and possibly improved?) administration hired a librarian to rebalance the collection and restore print resources. Read about his experience here:
    http://www.maschoolibraries.org/newsletter/reintroducing-printed-books-to-the-cushing-academy-library
    If the best an administrator can do is to cut staff/service/materials to fund something else, they are ineffectual, uncreative, and probably cutting them would be the best option. The administrator at Cushing who removed all print was himself removed.

    • unemployed librarian says:

      Jane Dearie,

      You make some good points. However, I think the reason the powers that be are so quick to follow through on these memes, besides the fact that they are intellectually lazy, is because librarians have not positioned themselves as valuable enough to be consulted on such matters. Librarians, especially public librarians, have an image problem, and so everyone pigeon-holes them. If librarians embedded themselves in their communities more, expanded their skill sets, stepped outside their comfort zones, and provided more transparency about the work they do, etc. then we may not have as many of these types of mistakes occurring. Just my five cents.

  3. And yet the “erstwhile library sypporter”, AKA “Anonymous Coward, managed to have another one of his citation-free (and link-free) comments published as a letter in the latest LJ. It’s the first comment for this article: http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2017/09/opinion/editorial/no-time-waste-facing-reality-climate-breakdown-editorial/

    So why did LJ publish this if there was no backup information??

    • anonymous coward says:

      I don’t believe I’m the person AL is referring to. I commented on that other comment specifically because it seemed to propose a purity test must be passed before accepting support. SO I think you are very much confused here.

      However, onto my “published letter”:

      My comment included a direct quotes from NOAA and NASA- did I need to also link to that quote? Am I incorrect that librarians are unable to find such things on their own? My comment was specifically about the sciencism in the article trying to blame a natural disaster on climate change, despite there being quotes from leading agencies refuting such claims. Specifically, that making such unfounded claims bolstered the arguments of deniers because they could point to such unfounded claims as panic not backed by science and, from that point, discredit everything in one fell swoop. Beyond that- suggesting libraries are either the problem or the solution is silliness.

      Why the hate? I didn’t ask for it to be published- perhaps they did so because it was a reasonable reaction to a hyperbolic editorial? I don’t know.

    • If you want us to believe what you are saying, then yes – link to those quotes. You’re the one that has the burden of proof. And please let us know which “leading agencies” these are. Heck, the “government” just issued a report about how these claims are founded.

      As for the hate – you seem to be a little thin-skinned. There’s no “hate” in my reply.

      http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/11/02/561608576/massive-government-report-says-climate-is-warming-and-humans-are-the-cause

  4. Anonymous Coward says:

    Ah, so it’s a readong comprehension problem. The quotes, as attributed in the comment, are from NASA and NOAA. Tjey are not refuting man made climatw change, but the assertion thst such change causes increase in storm frequency, power, and damages. In fact, the link you include ALSO states it is problematic linking storms to climate change.

    Not thin skinned, just able to (usually) comprehend tone of what’s written. If i am wrong here, i apologize.

  5. Anonymous Coward says:

    Note to self- autocorrect is important. Leave it on.

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