Journalism of the 21st century is here, and it comes with cats. Oh god, so many cats. Reddit, the front page of the Internet,” isn’t the future of news — it’s the present. And I mean it in the pinspiration “today is a gift so we call it the present” kind of way.
Reddit has already helped solve some of life’s pressing questions, most notably when, exactly, doth the narwhal bacon?
But “redditors” aren’t satisfied to eat their bacon and ponder the deepest intricacies of existential philosophy. They are now determined to replace journalism as we know it.
The impact these borderline-motivated redditors have on the process of gathering news and information is non-sarcastically surprising. The “I am A” / “Ask Me Anything” sub- reddit features candid, uncensored interviews with the celebrities and newsmakers CNN wishes it could talk to. One recent luminary includes Kayden Kross who, according to people I swear I barely know, is a notable adult film actress. Some guy who made an indie movie with someone on public radio was also on there.
President Barack Obama himself recently answered several questions on reddit in a successful attempt to crash the site and get everyone off the damn Internet and back to work for a second. Close to 3 million people logged on that day to witness Obama answer questions about a proposal for a constitutional amendment to stop Citizens United, and to inquire about the White House beer recipe.
Critics of the open forum format claim Obama dodged hard-hitting questions about Afghanistan or how much he really loves bacon. But the truth is, he probably would have never received those uncomfortable questions from a reporter worried about maintaining a relationship with the White House. If there’s one thing redditors know nothing of, it’s maintaining a relationship.
Interviews with stars and people on the outskirts of mainstream society (for example, the guy on public radio) aren’t the only tools in reddit’s journalistic satchel. During the Aurora movie theater tragedy, redditors collected firsthand accounts of the events, even creating lists of the victims and which hospitals they were staying at, faster than traditional news organizations. Sure, their up-to-the minute news probably had some errors. But CNN, an organization known (in certain circles) for journalistic professionalism, butchered the Supreme Court ruling on the Afford-able Healthcare Act. At least when you go on reddit, you aren’t supporting Ted Turner’s vision of an America where cable news is always on, TNT owns all the best movies and free- roming bison herds in Montana.
What reddit is doing to journalism is a warning shot to all media producers. User-generated content will replace everything, beginning with TV. Some executives in television studios will try to convince Ameri- cans we need them to produce the original content we share online (cat videos are the obvious, albeit limited, alternative). What they don’t realize is those same studios produced enough crap during the heady days of the 1980s and 1990s to sustain us for decades. There are enough music videos, TV episodes and commercials to share until global warming turns America into “Waterworld” and Kev- in Costner is the last man standing. If this isn’t the ultimate karma-bomb for the studios that made movies such as “Waterworld,” I don’t know what is.
Speaking of karma, reddit has managed something even Buddah considered impossible. It has quantified the abstract concept of karma and created a functioning economy with it. Thus, just like with yoga and feng shui, Americans have conformed the ancient Eastern philosophy of goodwill into a capitalistic system.
To be fair, reddit has its critics. Its system of voting “up” or “down” on comments and posts has been ac- cused of hiding unpopular opinions and ideas. Only what is interesting and acceptable to the reddit community is voted “up,” gets more attention and leads people to band-wagon with more “up” votes. Some individuals (potentially 4chan trolls or bleeding-heart communists) argue voting amounts to self-censorship. To me, voting for what you like is democracy at its finest. Telling online strangers what you do or do not like embodies American values the way apple pie and bacon do.
In the years to come, reddit’s biggest challenge will be gaining serious credibility. It is a story reminiscent of another icon of a generation past: Bruce Campbell. Critics didn’t always take the star of the renowned “Evil Dead” trilogy seriously during his cinematographic heyday. It wasn’t until years later that his influence in film was recognized. I can only hope we don’t wait until after reddit’s zeitgeist to recognize its greatness.