Thursday, October 28, 2010

Is This the Future of Journalism?

So this writer over at the Marie Claire blog said some really mean things in her review of Mike & Molly, a new show about two people who meet at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting and fall in love. Within 24 hours, the blogosphere had blown up and the offending piece had made national news. How could a writer be so tone-deaf? How did her entry get past the site's editors?

In the ensuing shitstorm, the writer, Maura Kelly, has issued a half-assed apology and the Marie Claire site has invited other writers to respond to the blog. The end result? Kajillions of hits and free publicity.

Once we have extricated ourselves from the public debate over the "obesity epidemic" in the United States, might we take a moment to acknowledge how this is just another case of stunt blogging, or deliberately taking an indefensible stance so as to drum up a firestorm of controversy and the ensuing commentary/attention for the blog in question and its parent organization?

What's fascinating to me about this case is the egregious nature of Kelly's comments, which are so baldly offensive as to challenge belief. And the writing itself was fairly clumsy for a national magazine's website. Wouldn't such a move, knowing or not, ruin one's professional reputation? Yet I can totally imagine a growing niche of stunt bloggers within marketing departments all over the country, trying to think of nefarious ways to generate interest in their companies' content/product. It reminds me of the recent episode of Mad Men, where Peggy and Pete are struggling to figure out a way to sell Sugarberry Hams, so they decide to stage a fight between two ladies at a local supermarket over the last Sugarberry Ham. Thus the birth of the slogan, "a ham worth fighting for." Easy peasy.

It remains to be seen whether the backlash will affect Marie Claire's bottom line over the long-term after the short-term bump in familiarity has faded. I'm guessing not. Something else will happen to get the public's ire up and they'll forget all about this stunt. Well, all but the names Marie Claire and Maura Kelly. And how they felt strongly about something related to these two names once. And, maybe if they go to the website, they'll be able to remember what the fuss is about.

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