Don’t Lose Your Soul to Examiner.com
This post at FishBowlLA pretty much confirms my instincts about all the crappy sites associated with billionaire Philip Anschutz’s Examiner.com. An “examiner” from LA, L.J. Williamson, gives the real lowdown on, uh, ‘examining’ stuff:
You’re probably familiar with Examiner.com and other “pay per click” sites for writers. Even though the pay is dismal, I thought it might be useful in some way to be the “Los Angeles Family and Parenting” columnist for the site.
Yet after a short time, the whole setup began to grate on me and my (admittedly puny) sense of journalistic ethics, and it all just fed my outrage about the direction the world is going in. Is this really the future of journalism? There is no fact checking, no editing, no nothing except a regular series of emails from your “channel manager” imploring you to employ SEO and “viral marketing” to increase the number of hits your page gets, and writers are paid next to nothing. An example from one of their emails: “Examiners should avoid obscure references, no matter how ‘clever.’ Search engines don’t recognize cleverness.”
Williamson’s entire screed is pretty entertaining, especially the part about pissing off Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy. It also contains this frightening quote from Examiner.com’s CEO: “I do see examiner.com replacing a number of the functions of local media.” [Source.]
Examiner.com is the sort of thing an out-of-work journalist might find tempting. I did. They approached me before they ever put the first site online to be a “crime examiner.”
I was put off by the nomenclature. The title “examiner” for the bloggers who put up Examiner.com’s usually execrable, borderline plagiarized content creates a mental picture of some anal-retentive weirdo with a giant magnifying glass leaning over a laptop screen in the dead of night.
Still, I had the impression at the time that pay-per-click was working pretty well for some of the bloggers at Gawker, and I knew that crime stories could sometimes bring big-time traffic, so I really thought about it – for about 10 minutes. Then I realized the deal was going to pretty sweet for the people behind Examiner and a lot of work for shit for the “examiners” themselves. Oh, and for what may be almost no money at all and certainly no benefits, they wanted to do a background check. They also sent papers for a credit check, but I was told that was a mistake, and they weren’t going to do one.
If an employer is going to pay me a guaranteed wage and toss in benefits and 401k, they can background check away. Otherwise, forget about it.
At the time, I didn’t even know about Philip Anschutz’s hard-core conservative politics. Mind you, I don’t have a problem with conservatives – I live in the South where they’re pretty much the majority, and I was one in many ways for many years – but Anschutz is a little spooky. This is what the ever-reliable and accurate Wikipedia has to say about Philip Anschutz’s politics. I’ve added some emphasis:
- [Anschutz] Helped fund Colorado’s 1992 Amendment 2, a ballot initiative designed to overturn local and state laws that prohibit discrimination against individuals on the basis of sexual orientation.
- Helped fund the Discovery Institute, a think tank based in Seattle, Washington that promotes intelligent design and criticizes evolution.
- Supported the Parents Television Council, a group that protests against what they believe to be television indecency.
- Financed and distributed Christian films, such as Amazing Grace and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, for mass audiences through his two film production companies and ownership of much of the Regal, Edwards and United Artists theater chains. In addition, as a producer Anschutz reportedly required the removal of certain material related to drug use and sex in the 2004 film Ray because he found it objectionable.
- Financed The Foundation for a Better Life.
Yeah. That dude is the moneyman behind an effort to replace “a number of the functions of local media.” If that makes you a little nervous, well, it should.
Either stay away from “examining” (GOD, that annoys me) altogether, or follow L.J. Williamson’s rather brilliant example and dive in and go into subversive mode. One option is better for your soul, the other might be hugely entertaining. Until, that is, Jenny McCarthy sics her lawyers on you.
Edited to add: I totally missed this long comment/rebuttal on the Fishbowl LA post from Travis Henry, Examiner.com’s “Director of Editorial.” It’s… worth a read, I guess.