At last, my personage has been graced with the extreme wonder of being given an actual job.
Job being defined in the task-like sense, that is- I am still Intern, of course (and in every way, much to my pride’s detriment- but my pride is well-served by that title’s rebuke). I have, at last, after either having proved myself competent or annoying them sufficiently with my eagerness, found my “niche.”
It is my great pleasure to inform you what that “niche” might be.
I am, it is my pleasure to announce, your personal curator of The Strange. That meaning, it is my sacred honor and divine privilege, if anything, my cosmic duty, to scour the web (our affiliate sites) for emerging hot content and to seize those means of production immediately, developing, curating, and enriching the site’s content of whatever stories are Odd enough to warrant popular fascination, while still being credible enough to not degrade the integrity of our readers.
It turns out that distinction is surprisingly obtuse.
These great works of humankind’s achievement and cultural development may serve as a brief summary of the nature of my, honestly, groundbreaking work in news this week. These are but a few of the remarkable achievements and culture-shattering moments of human development I have but been fortunate enough to be graced with the privilege to publicize and shed light upon:Man Pleads Guilty to Spraying Cow Manure On Border Patrol Cruiser, Cites Frustration With Immigration PolicyBrain-eating pork worm removed from Florida man’s eye
You know that first headline was funny.
Okay, regardless, either way, I got to find, format, and publish a lot of awesome stories this week- those were just particularly emblematic of the absurdity of the task of tracking online news trends. Jane, my Supervisor and the Digital Content Editor at WAVY, was amazingly helpful and good-natured as always (Jane is somehow simultaneously omnipotently busy working, divinely pleasant, and inhumanly competent- not entirely convinced she is a mortal like the rest of us), and she took the time to set me up with a niche she thought I’d shine in- monitoring trending stories and our affiliate sites for interesting national (or bizarre local) content we could pick up. I love doing it.
I love national politics, and am an avid follower of the most minute intricacies of what most consider to be the interminable facets of the bureaucracy of government, so I was thrilled by the dream-come-true prospect of integrating national news content with the things we cover on our site. (Sometimes I write stories about national news on my own- there is nothing more viscerally thrilling and grounding/intellectually stimulating at once, esp. in context of foreign policy- so I thought this idea to find niche events and integrate them was a dream come true.)
But lo and behold, I had an adversary- and, like, all my worthy adversaries, this adversary was also my indispensable best friend- and its name was the Associated Press. I think the Associated Press is really great (alright, everyone does, but still), at the same time, we have a bittersweet tension. They were totally stealing my thunder. How can I deliver a hot take on this new development you were kind enough to break for me, Associated Press, if you’ve already produced and auto-published a developed take on this matter before I could even click “retweet?”
That was a joke. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Associated Press and been getting really interested in learning about the history of how something like that developed- which is literally the best idea of all time for accurately, cleanly, and efficiently disseminating independently verified factual information and breaking events- I can see why that would be so important and such a groundbreaking idea when it comes to ensuring that control of information flow has a means of regular fact-checking and credibility, and is separate from the control of potential despots or partisan sources. The Associated Press is sort of like the Supreme Court of reporters- yes, (as Jane always, reminds us) they are human and they are fallible, but, fallible or not, they are a demigodlike fixture, and the fact remains that, when they have spoken… they have spoken.
We all feel bittersweet tension with those archetypes we admire and wish to personify.
But that, nonetheless, was how I happened to find my niche in the world of The Strange. It turns out that the nature of organic web traffic when it comes to oddities and humor (something I, as a deep web enthusiast, am well-versed in) is almost as indiscernible/unpredictable as it is an unparalleled force. The nature of a weird or funny story’s X-factor, that both plays into underlying societal fixations while simultaneously twisting them into a new, raw, and ridiculous take, and what makes people share which strange thing, is not something algorithms can quite predict yet. Honestly, it’s not something I claim to entirely understand (or in any way support) either- a particular trend this week (I think there were at least three stories) was worms that burrow in your eyes and surprise you by suddenly being brain-eating, soul-sucking, murder-inducing parasites (okay, there were a variety of these stories). But nonetheless, these stories were really popular. So it was the week of weird stuff that lives in your eye.
This is my job.
And I love it.
I had the opportunity to write/share many more socially relevant and meaningful stories (I just thought the Strange really stood out- and I just wanted to make you aware of the novelty of news content this week that came out in addition to all the boring, non-brain-eating-worm-related sort of things). I also had the opportunity to directly work on reporting developments in the Florida school shooting.
There was another shooting at the local Walmart right in the middle of the crux of our coverage on Florida, and two shootings at once was… thrilling, exhausting, and completely unreal. I’ve never done the drug methamphetamine, but I feel like it would feel a lot like that. You have little time and emotional energy left to feel complex frustrations at national events when you have expended all of your energy on reporting them. That was my second mass shooting in the mere three (four) weeks I’ve been here… and when something like this happens, everything else stops. I also witnessed the extreme pressure, intensity, and magnitude (your reports affect people’s lives literally), and experienced the situation of respecting victim’s privacy, respecting the integrity of limited police remarks, while still being there to give the public the truth and as many answers as we could, whenever we could- but so often, I noticed with frustration, we just didn’t have them. It’s in situations like this (of national crisis and alarm, with few people who were there firsthand talking to reporters) that accurate reporting becomes so crucial, and that it is so easy for rumor and conspiracy theories to spread. I learned a lot about what the news looks like from the inside in these tragic scenarios, and the extreme degree of competency and groundedness required from everyone to work together like one organism (honestly, I found the urgency and focus really grounding in a way, and the social norms of reporters in these situations is a fascinating balance of calm and avid alertness that’s almost do-or-die). It was a huge learning experience to be there for this moment- today’s experience in the cut of this national coverage is totally worthy of its own blog post, so, my reader who has borne with me through my ramblings on eyeball-worms, the nature of viral content, and the Associated Press, thank you for joining me, and we will meet again, at which time I promise to unleash for you a vivid portrait of the scene that is the news room at the moment of mass hysteria, the most ultimate kind of breaking news- and how it feels to embrace your role as messsenger of chaos, and the surprising calm it inspires within.