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Shock Content – and is it necessary?

Jun 15, 2016   //   by Kelly Malloy   //   Content creation, In the Media, Latest News  //  No Comments

Yesterday I read a recently published online article by a major news outlet about a tragic incident that happened on the Gold Coast in 1990 to a young teenage couple.  The man who committed the atrocity against the two was found, charged, convicted and is still in jail. It’s a sad ending to an unnecessary story, but nonetheless, it’s an ending.

Then the question came to mind “Was this article and its content necessary and relevant?” The headline insinuating ‘a monster lurking in the darkness’ was obviously going to intrigue people and make readers click through to the article.  Ten sentences in, I was transported into a horror movie with a graphic and disturbing blow-by-blow description of what happened to these two kids and the lack of remorse shown by the man who did it.

But firstly, allow me to digress for a moment . . . . .

Last year I completed a course at QUT where one of the lecturers simplified on how to write content that matters and will positively enhance the readers experience, the rule was ‘So what?’ You have written this content, so what is the reader going to achieve by reading this?

These are some of my own ‘So What’s?’ I wrote down during this course on creating content that mattered:

  • Will the reader be informed?
  • Will the reader be provoked in their thinking?
  • Will the reader be encouraged to change something in their lives for the better?
  • Will the reader’s life benefit in any way from this knowledge?

I read through this entire article and blinked away tears as the description left nothing to imagination. I read the article simply to see what possible ending and ‘point’ of rehashing this tragedy would be.

A park had been named in memory of one of the victims many years ago so maybe the ending of this article would be something meaningful such as a foundation set up for one of the victims’ families or charities. Perhaps the point of the article was that the convicted attacker was up for parole and they were petitioning to have him kept in jail? Or maybe this article was written reflecting on how security had since changed on Gold Coast beaches at night time since the incident?

But no.

There was nothing new to print. No point. No moving forward. Just re-hashing a terrible thing that happened to some really nice kids and leaving readers in shock with no direction to turn.

In addition to not giving the readers any tools to move forward, the reality was that the victim’s family and friends probably still live on the Gold Coast and undoubtedly replay the nightmare in their heads every day. Now, their personal tragedy is used as Shock Content which served no other purpose than for readers to click through to the article.

The thing that upset me most with this article was the disrespect which was left to the last paragraph of the article when the publication noted that they had contacted the mother of one of the victims.  She chose not to comment as it was still too painful and yet the article was published.

Yes, the point of writing an article is for people to read it but as a writer, you have a responsibility to your readers and as a human being, you have a responsibility to the victims (if there were any).  You are responsible for choosing content that is relevant, informative and – if appropriate – entertaining.

It’s not fair to kick the wind out of someone and just leave them gasping for air and that goes for writing as well. As a writer you need to take responsibility for your actions and ensure your writing is serving a purpose.

Make Your Words Count. KM.

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