I’m tired of writing for clicks. 

I’m tired of aggre­gating Tweets and writing blurbs about viral videos. I’m tired of mon­i­toring Google Trends and scrolling through the latest hashtag and writing head­lines around the most searchable keywords. 

But writing for clicks is what they pay me to do.

The most dif­ficult lesson I’ve learned during my jour­nalism edu­cation is that a news­paper is a business. Hard-hitting, reported stories are what we’re trained to look for and write, but nowadays, readers want the “Listen to this,” content. Clickbait pays the bills.

As jour­nalists, we like to think of our­selves as people who do good. We expose cor­ruption, give a voice to the voiceless, and tell stories that make a reader feel nice. But that jour­nalism — a roman­ti­cized, Watergate-esque kind — has been traded for trendy head­lines and mean­ingless anecdotes.

And as the digital age pro­gresses, so has readers’ expec­ta­tions of free content. People curse pay­walls or wrinkle their noses at article limits on their favorite news site. Some just skim the headlines. 

Enter, clickbait. List articles (or “lis­ticles”), write-ups about popular content, or even reposts of viral videos draw in readers, and, therefore, ad revenue. Outlets like Buz­zfeed have excelled in this, pumping out lis­ticles like “21 Things You Should Never Do At Tim Hortons” and quizzes that reveal “What You Should Major In, Based On Your Fave Cartoon Foods” (for the record, I should appar­ently be in musical theatre). Although Buz­zfeed isn’t a full-time news outlet, similar pieces have been showing up on the web­sites of pub­li­ca­tions like “The New York Times” and “Time.”

Hiring writers for clickbait articles to stay afloat means less resources for solid reporting, but the alter­native is often worse — not doing so means a news­paper might go under. Mid-market news­papers don’t always have the resources like those of “The New York Times” and rely on ad revenue to draw eyeballs. 

That’s why it’s important to sub­scribe to your local newspaper. 

Local news­papers are vital to the well­being of every com­munity, but national outlets are slowly driving them out of business. Mega media orga­ni­za­tions can afford to sac­rifice quality for quantity, but local papers can’t. And that’s a good thing.  Local papers like “The Detroit News” or “Hillsdale Daily News” provide a more nuanced approach to local issues, simply because the reporters are more familiar with the area. They are also more likely to stay on top of issues important to res­i­dents, like the Flint water crisis. It’s a subject national outlets dropped months ago. “The Detroit News” had a story about it just last week. 

Paying for a sub­scription keeps outlets important to your local area in business and helps them manage resources to cover important stories. Most local outlets are not expensive either. 

And at $4.30 a month for an all-access digital sub­scription, “The Detroit News” is worth just a little more than the coffee you’d drink with it in the morning.

Jour­nalists shouldn’t have to worry about writing viral trending stories just to keep their paper in the black. They should be able to keep their focus on important local issues. 

Keep us from writing clickbait. Sub­scribe to your local newspaper.