Syria or Cyrus? News sites find trivial pursuits deliver hits, money

The Onion has started a long-overdue “discussion” over the tendency of news websites to favor the easily-clickable, trivial news McNuggets over the more serious and substantial journalism that people say they want but — given the choice — tend to ignore.

It started Monday when the satire site posted an “opinion column” under the name of Meredith Artley, managing editor Of, which featured a generous helping of Miley Cyrus.

There was nothing, and I mean nothing, about that story that related to the important news of the day, the chronicling of significant human events, or the idea that journalism itself can be a force for positive change in the world.

For Christ’s sake, there was an accompanying story with the headline “Miley’s Shocking Moves.” In fact, putting that story front and center was actually doing, if anything, a disservice to the public. And come to think of it, probably a disservice to the hundreds of thousands of people dying in Syria, those suffering from the current unrest in Egypt, or, hell, even people who just wanted to read about the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.

But boy oh boy did it get us some web traffic. Which is why I, Meredith Artley, managing editor of, put the story in our top spot. Those of us watching on Google Analytics saw the number of homepage visits skyrocket the second we put up that salacious image of Miley Cyrus dancing half nude on the VMA stage.

But here’s where it gets great: We don’t just do a top story on the VMA performance and call it a day. No, no. We also throw in a slideshow called “Evolution of Miley,” which, for those of you who don’t know, is just a way for you to mindlessly click through 13 more photos of Miley Cyrus. And if we get 500,000 of you to do that, well, 500,000 multiplied by 13 means we can get 6.5 million page views on that slideshow alone.

The real Artley has responded via Twitter and is taking it all in stride:

And why would she be in a bad mood? She gave the people what they wanted.

The story on CNN now has over 13,000 comments. That’s 5,000 more than CNN’s story about the coming war in Syria.