This is not an exit

Why the Washington Post needs Chris Cillizza and The Fix

In Uncategorized on January 25, 2015 at 11:40 pm
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Angela Pan.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Angela Pan.

U.S. politics are full of bullshit to wade through. People talk — sometimes only under the condition of anonymity. More often than not, you’re stuck decoding what a politician means when he or she says something.

That’s why a blog can help supplement the steady flow of information that comes out of the nation’s capitol. The Washington Post has a few blogs that help provide insight into many of the issues that the paper covers.

The Fix might be the best example of a blog that helps shed light on that coverage by polishing the presentation.

Take presidential elections.

Sometimes people say they’re running for president when they probably have no intention of doing so. Other times, the presidential field gets so crowded somebody needs to explain why. And yet others still, somebody just needs to tell Mitt Romney it might be time to stop trying.

The Fix is valuable because it takes topics that The Post has already covered and spins them forward. Chris Cillizza and his writers dissect these issues with language that’s less stiff than traditional newswriting but neutral enough that it doesn’t ooze bias.

It’s the paper’s way of competing with coverage from such outlets as The Huffington Post, Gawker and other blogs whose policy on objective coverage and language is more lax than, say The New York Times’ or The Chicago Tribune’s.

The Fix is a direct reply to the kinds of competition that has sprouted up over the years — it’s snarkier, more relatable and more fun to read than a 15-inch story on political process. Accessibility and presentation are where the blog excels.

It’s easy to know what you’re getting yourself into the moment you read a headline. There’s graphs. There’s charts. The Fix offers myriad ways to look at the tried and true art of politics reporting.

The format does, however, have its drawbacks. In terms of reader engagement, the most advanced tool that The Washington Post gives its readers is a comment system. It’s not easy to start a conversation or be a part of an existing one without getting lost in the crowd.

Gawker offers its readers a proprietary publishing platform that gives them all of the same tools that the blog’s paid staffers use. Kinja works across all of Gawker Media’s blogs, from Kotaku — the video game site — to Jalopnik, the car site.

Kinja’s star system helps the community self moderate. If you like a comment or post by a community member, you give it a star and its presence is magnified. Content that garners massive numbers of stars gets highlighted by the staff and sometimes even leads to employment.

Compared to Gawker, The Fix may as well be The New York Times — it’s still predominantly professionals writing at their readers and informing them, rather than interacting and encouraging collaboration. User-generated content is what defines entertainment these days, from the myriad tools that video game developers offer players to upload custom levels and art for a number of titles to YouTube.

Seriously, just look at YouTube. The site’s one and only purpose is to collect and spotlight the best user-generated videos in the world and package them in a way that makes advertisers throw money at them.

But that doesn’t mean The Fix isn’t completely ineffective at interaction. The blog’s Twitter account has nearly a quarter of a million followers. It’s easy to see why.

Cillizza’s social media presence is just as engaging as the blog’s content. Where else will you see a Simpsons inside joke used alongside serious commentary about the 2016 presidential race?

Although the Twitter feed isn’t mechanically a part of The Washington Post blog, it helps supplement Cillizza’s coverage with an even more conversational tone. And the bevy of links to other Washington Post content provide synergy the likes of which would make Alec Baldwin’s 30 Rock character proud.

Simply put, The Fix is important for The Washington Post because it helps keep the newspaper relevant in a time where witty observation and a snark tone could mean the difference between hundreds of page views and thousands.

But what do YOU think?

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