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Ken Magill

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Stupid Media Watch: On Behalf of my Entire Profession, I Apologize

By Ken Magill
How many people wake up one day and realize they’ve chosen a career most people dislike, or even despise, and have good reason for doing so?
Oh, yeah. If you’re reading this you’re associated with email marketing in some way and certainly have had that realization at one time or another. You’ve probably even been called a spammer at a party or two. 
But people don’t hate you or what you do. They hate what they think you do until—if given the chance—you explain it to them.
For me it’s different.
As a reporter—or journalist as my more precious colleagues refer to the profession—I had the revelation that most people rightfully hate my profession a long time ago. And for good reason. Too many people in my profession are dishonest, shallow, agenda-driven narcissists. 
And some are just plain stupid. Take the following story from the Palm Beach Post:
“Spam emailers target Subway in wake of FBI raid on pitchman’s home,” said the headline.
“Spam emailers are targeting Subway customers following the FBI raid at the home of Jared Fogle, the company’s pitchman,” said the lede for arguably the stupidest story about email spam ever written.
And, yes, people also hate us because we continue to spell the word lead wrong to distinguish it from the metal even though the metal is no longer used in publishing.
“An email sent this morning to an editor at The Palm Beach Post boasts that Subway is giving away gift cards to those who click on a link that take you to a third-party vendor’s website. The subject line of the email: ‘Get your Subway Sub today [ON THE HOUSE],’” continued arguably the stupidest story about email spam ever written.
“’For a limited time only, Subway is giving away $50 in gift-cards,” the email, which was sent by RewardZoneUsa says. ‘Hurry and get yours while the offer is still here,’” the story continued. 
“A picture included in the email, however, offers customers a ‘$100 gift.’
Whoa! Talk about eagle-eyed reporting. Our whip-smarty sleuth showed just how tech savvy journalists must be to survive in this lightening-speed world by hitting the “show images” button and observed the image didn’t match the subject line.
The story then took the usually solid practice of calling story subjects for comment to its absurd logical conclusion:
“A spokesman for the sandwich chain could not immediately be reached for comment,” the story said.
That, folks, is journalese for: “I made a phone call and left a message.” And, no, Subway should not return this reporter’s call. If it doesn’t, nothing happens and a stupid story dies. 
Spam pitching Subway sandwiches hitting an editor’s email inbox just after news breaks that the chain’s spokesman’s home has been raided by police are two events that have nothing to do with one another. 
And I know from personal experience what drove the reporter to file this particular piece of drivel.
It was a lame attempt at what’s called “moving the story forward.” I would bet the reporter was given this assignment by the editor who received the spam and had no choice but to file it.
Either that or the Palm Beach Post is infected with multiple layers of stupid.

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