On November 7th (the day my home-state’s new marriage equality law went into effect) I got an email from an old friend:
What, no gay marriage blog post on offbeat bride today? I was looking forward to something fantastical!
At least once a month, some sort of big “hard news” story will intersect with an Offbeat Empire site, and I’ll get emails about it. Mark Zuckerberg gets married. A terrible school shooting happens. A state will have a marriage equality vote or ruling. And most often, the Offbeat Empire sites will ignore it. Not always, of course. I did a quick post about Mark Zuckerberg’s wedding because I liked the message it sent about a wealthy couple making the choice for a simple wedding. We did a brief post on Offbeat Families about the Newtown, CT shootings because several readers begged us to.
But for the most part we don’t touch hard news stories, and here are a few of the reasons why:
It’s not always relevant
In the case of the Washington marriage equality law, I was keenly aware that while it was a HUGE issue for those of us here in Seattle, it was less relevant to other American readers, and even LESS relevant to our many International readers. I mean, not that we can’t all applaud progress when and where it happens, but when a news story only directly relates to 3% of my readers… is it really worth covering?
We’re not journalists
Look, I know my strengths. I know my editors’ strengths. And none of us are reporters. We’re just not. I realize that some bloggers are reporters, but we’re not. We’re lifestyle bloggers. We like sharing people’s personal experiences. We like sharing pretty pictures. We like inspiring people. We like linking to stuff. We do not like getting on the phone and tracking down sources. We do not like interviewing crying children in parking lots. We have no desire to pretend we are hard-boiled or have the scoop on a news story. It’s just not our strength. You can get that from thousands of other news sources on the web.
We don’t do much real-time publishing
Each week’s posts go through a multi-step editorial process that involves pitching, producing, copyediting, a final review from me, and then scheduling. Each site’s editor works within a rubric to fill the two — four editorial slots on each site, each day. They work to balance the content to ensure diversity on a wide range of facets. A lot of thought goes into how all the content fits together, and it’s all locked up and finalized Friday the week before the post goes up.
Of course we can slap a post together for immediate publication, but it involves a lot of reshuffling, calling in a favor from the copyeditor (who then makes a face like this), rescheduling existing posts, etc. In other words: it’s a pain and we’re usually too busy.
Sometimes people need a break from the news
When something big and awful happens (think Newtown shootings) it can feel weird and callous to carry on with our usual editorial schedule. Really, we’re going to publish a post about someone’s cute wedding in between wiping cry-snot off our keyboards? But in this current media climate, we’re all bombarded with hard news everywhere all the time. Chances are, if you’re coming to Offbeat Bride on the day of a terrible news event, it’s because you’ve consciously chosen to take a break from the bad news and come try to calm yourself with a tiny dose of happiness. In the midst of all the awful sadness, sometimes people just need a small bite of beauty as a reminder that it’s not all bad.
And when I say “people,” I include myself and my editors. As I noted on the Offbeat Families post about Newtown:
Please keep in mind that Stephanie and I are both extremely raw about this issue, and moderating comments is a significant emotional commitment. If things start to feel like they’re sliding off the rails in ways that make either of us uncomfortable, we’ll be closing comments. We’re doing our best to provide a safe space for y’all to have a discussion, but we also are trying to avoid sobbing into our laptops any more than we’re already doing today.
Part of the issue here is that when big difficult news comes up, I don’t want to make it part of my job to moderate people’s emotional reactions to that news. I also don’t want to inflict that job on my editors — I don’t pay them enough to moderate a news site. I pay them to be light, fluffy lifestyle bloggers. Granted, light and fluffy with a progressive, intelligent angle… but the Offbeat Empire just isn’t your home for current events. And we’re ok with that.