Web designers hate this perspective. We consider what we do to be far more important than decorating sloppy content and returning it in a timely fashion. Many of us would argue that our real job is to make content accessible, flexible, easy to use and easy to work with. The real value in design comes from what you can’t see or what you don’t appreciate; it comes from all of the trouble that youdon’t have because we fixed it ahead of time. Thank goodness we know better: if we just made things pretty, all of our work would be in vain.
McAuliffe’s piece would never have garnered 500,000 pageviews in 36 hours had she published it on her personal website; instead, it both benefited from and helped to burnish the reputation of the Atlantic more generally. That’s a nice virtuous circle. On the other hand, a boring blog post which would never get attention on a random blog can get a decent four-figure number of pageviews just by dint of being published on the website of a print publication like the New York Times or the New York Observer. As a result, such publications are faced with a constant temptation to put up as much content as they can and monetize those pageviews, even if doing so slowly erodes their brand. Immediate cashflows, these days, tend to trump impossible-to-measure concepts like the degree to which brand value might be going up or down.
Students are told from even before they walk on campus that being a journalist means Being a Good Writer, Being a Good Editor, Being a Good Photographer. No one is telling them they could be an application developer, or a data journalist, or a media entrepreneur. Or if they have heard it, that voice is getting drowned out by traditionalists. A disturbing amount of time, the traditionalists drowning those students out are other students.