Homer would be embarrassed: The Odyssey Online’s impact on journalism

By Miranda Donohue

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(Official Facebook page of The Odyssey Online - UMass Dartmouth)

(The Odyssey Online – UMass Dartmouth Official Facebook Page)

The quest to be relatable has snuck into modern journalism and has taken control of the news American youth are drawn to and choose to read. In modern times, social media seems to dominate the world around us and now with news outlets like that of The Odyssey Online, it feels as if constructive journalism is being threatened by the most relatable articles to appear in your feed. Whether it’s an article relating to the reasons your roommate is your best friend told by the cast of “Grey’s Anatomy”, or 10 reasons why you must meditate every day; this isn’t what journalism should be transforming into. The Odyssey allows its authors to write articles on just about anything they wish, which is then often posted to Facebook and gains traction by friends sharing these articles. The articles produce an often sloppy and whimsical theme regarding relationships, Greek life or worse, politics. The lack of consistency in the articles being mass-produced is why instead of an article format, The Odyssey should consider changing into a blog instead.

After looking into this millennial-drawn outlet, I started to discover how the authors were getting paid. It seems as if the authors take in about $20 if his or her article has the highest views that week. Sounds like a sweepstakes, but without the big prize. It is more like a competition to see who can get the most shares on Facebook, or who has included the best gifs, or graphics interchange format in their articles. Using the $20 as a reward to entice authors for the most relatable articles just doesn’t seem like the best filter for in-depth, well-written articles. Because in order to have your piece salaried with the present from the company, which is now worth about $25 million dollars, you must pull from deep inside what your Facebook friends would find most appetizing.

The Odyssey can be compared to a reality TV show with thousands of writers and producers who have never worked for television. We don’t watch the Kardashians because it’s good television that is worthy of Emmy nominations and raising questions on modern issues; we watch it because their lives are entertaining. Think of it this way: If the Kardashians started naming the reasons Donald Trump should be president or why Hillary Clinton deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, there would be a bit of an uproar with those who watch.

The accessibility of The Odyssey is one of its keenest features, which is the reason it has such high fluidity of articles from people all around America. However, the editing aspect of writing is surely missed when it comes to the potency of these article posts. There is a community editor, a copyeditor and then the article is reviewed by one of 70 paid editors. My question is how then, with all of these employees, are grammatically inept pieces of writing being outsourced to millions of people? We must ask ourselves if we want to take these writers seriously when half the time a line includes some type of grammatical mistake or an often offensive theme that dabbles in the gray area of racism, sexism and unwarranted political assertions that helps to categorize The Odyssey as a glorified blog. When did “news” get this lame?

Defenders of The Odyssey also feel the tension that critics feel against the outlet. Authors enjoy the creative freedom the site offers them. But we have to ask ourselves if creative freedom warrants some kind of experience or at least a little substance or maybe even some research. Journalistic integrity has been sacrificed in the midst of finding what relates to you the most. It almost seems as if Buzzfeed quizzes have managed to disguise themselves as articles. The writers and defenders of The Odyssey need to take a step back and ask themselves what they are defending. Is it journalism? Is it blogging? Is it the freedom of expression?

I am all for those three essential parts of modern American life. However, I fear The Odyssey and other article outlets like it are replacing real journalism as well as the need for today’s millennials to involve themselves in current social issues instead of wasting precious time on an article, like “Five ways you know you go to UMass.”

Miranda Donohue can be reached at [email protected]