The Embarrassing, Infuriating, Click-Hungry Mainstream Response to the Storming of the Capitol Building

As elected officials scrambled for safety and armed insurgents overtook the Capitol Building like it was Toad Hall, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, and other publications were quick to round up social media posts about how celebrities felt.

I spent 15 years in arts & entertainment and lifestyle journalism at a variety of publications, and then I quit. You’re not typically supposed to quit 15 years into building a career in that particular field. Those are the years in which you learn your craft, you make your connections, and you pay your dues. I did all that, but then I said fuck it and launched The Gay Goods instead. Because the logical next step in my particular track would have been a larger publication like The Hollywood Reporter or Variety or Entertainment Weekly, and I couldn’t (to paraphrase Lillian Hellman) cut my conscience to fit this year’s coverage.

I’ve tried to articulate the ways in which I became disenfranchised with mainstream media before, but I think there is no clearer illustration than the events of the last 24 hours and how they have been covered. (I will not be including links to any of the stories I reference, because I refuse to offer them a single pageview.)

As The New York Times steadfastly clings to outdated notions of objectivity, The Hollywood Reporter offers a TV critic’s take on the “Capitol chaos” (as their social media employee phrased it on Twitter). Joe Scarborough used the word “fuck” on air, and Variety spun it into an entire article on reporters resorting to “harsh language” to cover recent news. In the immediate aftermath of the Capitol building breach, multiple sites did roundups of reactions from Hollywood figures, as if Sarah Silverman calling for Twitter to ban Donald Trump should compete with watching the events unfold in real time. Every outlet is looking for their angle on an attempt to overtake the country. That the insurrection mostly devolved into men and women taking selfies in private offices is not the point; this may be a slapstick catastrophe, but it is still a catastrophe.

Media industry publications have immediately seen the writing on the wall—read: what will get them clicks—and turned their staff writers into armchair political reporters. As they scramble to break the news — any news! — there is no mission statement left at these outlets. I interviewed for a job at Variety with its (now outgoing) editor-in-chief in February. It was as contentious a meeting as any I’ve ever had in my life, as she grilled me on my ability to get scoops and burn bridges, asking if I would be OK destroying my relationships with industry members on the altar of exclusivity. Simultaneously, the job would require paying obeisance at industry events, a whiplash-inducing combo that solidified a few things for me. One was that I was definitely not getting a job from an interview in which my interlocutor responded to me with, “That is not what I wanted to hear, Mark.” The other was that I had no interest in looking at everything as a potential opportunity to score pageviews. That job wasn’t a fit for me, but then again, I wouldn’t fit in at any job legacy publication. I’m no longer interested in keeping a decades-old brand relevant. Or at least not in the ways the people running those publications prefer.

I’m running a site that is dedicated to politics, porn, and pop culture, and I’m trying to thoughtfully readjust the ways in which those things are covered. I am well aware of my place in the world of online media right now, and I know for a fact that I would rather shut down The Gay Goods than do a roundup of how porn stars reacted to yesterday’s events. Not because they’re porn stars (honestly, most models are better informed and more engaged than mainstream celebrities), but because no one in entertainment needs to have their voices magnified in that way right now.

So editors: Stop copying and pasting social media embed codes and passing it off as an article, and sit this one out. Or are pageviews worth more than your credibility?

The Gay Goods is dedicated to engaging with a range of opinions and viewpoints. To share yours, email editor@thegaygoods.com.

Mark Peikert
About Mark Peikert More Articles
Previously editor-in-chief of Playbill, Backstage, and New York Press, Mark Peikert is a content creator with over 15 years of experience in publishing. In addition to his editorial work, he's also a popular moderator who has shared the stage with everyone from Angelina Jolie and Julianne Moore to John Mulaney and Tituss Burgess. Not at the same time.
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