The New York writer Emily Gould, who made her name by ginning up traffic for the traffic-obsessed site Gawker, takes to Slate to condemn a Gawker Media-owned blog, Jezebel, for ... ginning up traffic. Jezebel, Gould says, works hard to push the buttons of feminists, in order to generate page clicks and thereby--avert your eyes, squeamish readers--increase ad revenue. Previously Gould bared details of her life on a personal blog, then wrote a magazine piece and a book lamenting that she had done so.
Gould, in other words, is already well along a path previously taken by Lee Siegel, the literary critic who became notorious for praising his own work for the New Republic via an online "sock puppet." This, naturally, earned him a book contract that allowed him to complain at length that the Internet encouraged people to indulge their worst tendencies.
Job opportunities for journalists may be evaporating, but let it not be said that the Web has not produced new career niches.
I don't have a name for this niche. (Suggestions, readers?) But the trick, it seems to me, is that you have to be earnest and excessive in your early "misdeeds," so that your later mea culpa passes the laugh test. If the early misdeeds are fake or half-hearted, the subsequent 180-degree turn will come off as overly calculated and people won't buy it. But if you come out of the gate all earnest and high-minded, devoid of meretriciousness early in your career--well, good luck with that!
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Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.
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Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.
Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.
Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."
Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.
Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.