You experience it every day, oftentimes multiple times a day.
Whether you’re scrolling through social media or trying to read an article of interest, you are forever dodging pop-up ads that interrupt the story, auto-scroll it down, or flash between sentences, distracting you from the content. If you’re like me, you give up in frustration and eventually click out, if the site allows you to. Ever hit the backspace over and over and find yourself stuck in a site?
Even worse are the ads that pop up on social media feeds, the posts that interrupt those of your friends and entice you with salacious headlines like, “I can’t believe Kim said this about Kanye!” The headline sucks you in, and when you’re halfway through the article, you realize it was something she said five years ago, or something completely innocuous that isn’t shocking at all. That’s clickbait for you. Anything to get you to click so the site can secure more advertising money.
There’s nothing wrong with advertisers. This site has them and desperately needs them to keep producing journalism that represents the Christian voice. We love our advertisers for supporting our mission and allowing us to continue with our mission of balancing out the news a bit and providing a different perspective.
But clickbait and pop-ups are entirely different. They throw journalism out the window in favor of money. Stories aren’t even stories. They’re poorly written, drama-filled words that are there for one reason and one reason only – to get more advertisers. They cheapen journalism in the worst way possible.
In my efforts to find good, quality storytelling and to avoid clickbait, I found Hidden Compass. This web magazine has made a commitment to featuring stories that are beautifully written, factual, and engaging. I had the honor of writing a story for them, Only the Stones Remain, and when I say “honor,” I truly mean that. Just as I’m proud to write for this Christian magazine, I am proud to have contributed to a magazine that promotes integrity in journalism.
If you also believe in supporting quality journalism, you should check it out. The concept is unique; if I had to draw a comparison, it would be to PBS, where donations pay for the programming, rather than advertisers. These donations come from people like you and me who want to read good stories without ads interrupting the flow and without misleading headlines or rehashed content.
Just as importantly, the stories don’t carry a personal agenda or a political bias. They are just good stories. Remember when everyone used to read Reader’s Digest? Same idea. Engaging, quality short stories.
To give you an example, I stumbled upon the idea for my story while traveling through Alabama. There I found a wall that went on for over a mile, all made of hand-laid stone. When I delved into it, I heard the most remarkable story. The wall was built over the course of 33 years by a man who wanted to honor his great-great-grandmother, a Native American woman who, after being removed to Indian Territory, spent 5 years walking back to her home in Florence. She was a teenager walking over 700 miles, alone and afraid, and each stone in the wall represents another step she took. Both her story and that of the wall-builder are extraordinary. There are lessons to be learned there as well, about strength, tenacity, and honoring your ancestors.
In order to do her story justice, I spent hours researching the Trail of Tears, interviewing her remaining living descendent, and writing and rewriting her story. It went through several rounds of edits and fact checkers. The publication even commissioned artwork from a famous Yuchi artist to run along with the piece.
It’s an epic tale with many moving parts, a difficult story to tell. But I’m so glad I told it and so grateful there are publications out there that value history, truthful storytelling, and writing that takes effort. You won’t read stories here that were sent in, never reviewed, and published the next day. The process here is exhaustive, as it should be.
We have to support publications like Katy Christian Magazine and Hidden Compass. We can’t complain about the poor journalism running rampant on TV and online and do nothing to support journalism that works hard. This is one of those deals where we need to put our money where our mouth is. Complaining won’t change journalism. But financially supporting good journalism will absolutely make a statement.