If you asked random people on the street which newspapers young people are reading, we’re guessing very few, if any, would answer ‘The Wall Street Journal’. Yet millennial YouTube fans and YouTubers themselves have developed an obsession with the publication that can only truly be described as unhealthy.
Why the hatred towards this outlet, of all outlets? It all comes down to an article the site ran which criticised PewDiePie, the biggest YouTuber in the world, for seemingly making light of topics like anti semitism, in the name of supposed ‘satire’. The article, or rather, the subject of the article, resulted in PewDiePie being dropped by his network, having the second season of his YouTube Red show cancelled and having his reputation dented in the mainstream.
In the fallout of the debacle, many fans turned their anger towards the WSJ for publishing the article – and on the surface one can understand why. The article was, technically, the catalyst for all of the trouble for Pewds. But blaming the WSJ for what happened to Felix is like blaming the ocean when you get attacked by a shark. Yes, the shark was in the ocean, but the shark was still a shark. The fact of the matter is: no matter how you sway it, everything that happened to Felix was due to his own actions. The WSJ, for their part, merely reported on it. Which is, you know, the entire point of the media.
That is not to say that the concept of an ‘attack article’ doesn’t necessarily exist. They can be seen in their thousands on fringe sites that use the term ‘news’ very loosely and tend to have a lot of theories about the JFK assassination.
It is also true that basically every major news outlet will have some inherent biases, particularly political (Fox News, whaddup). Despite this, though, it is rare to ever see a major outlet throwing their weight behind a piece that is not factual, just for the purpose of destroying someone’s reputation (unless they’re a major politician). As romantic as the idea of evil media conspiracies are, the fact of the matter is that 99% of news is written by normal people, trying to do their best.
Even we here, at We The Unicorns were accused of being ‘anti-PewDiePie’ and being ‘out to get him’ when we ran the news stories about Felix being dropped by Disney. We aren’t. We simply report news as it happens – and that was news. The idea that you can only report news that is positive about YouTubers is as ridiculous as the idea of only publishing news that is negative. We didn’t report on those stories out of some weird conspiracy against PewDiePie but simply because we are a YouTube news site and that was YouTube news.
But the WSJ didn’t do themselves any favours
Yes, the WSJ was, I would argue, doing its job correctly. That being said, I agree that there is a point to make in the fact that they rarely, if ever report on news relating to YouTubers. And so the fact that they suddenly come out of the woodwork with an article that was highly critical of a popular creator left something of an unpleasant after taste. This is especially true because traditional media outlets have developed a (warranted) reputation among members of the online community for only taking an interest in YouTubers when there is a negative story, or when they can talk about their earnings. It is that trend that has led to the rise of websites like the one you are reading now, which are more focused on YouTuber news as a whole.
I am not claiming that websites like this one are ‘better’ than the WSJ, it’s simply arguable that when a website that always reports on YouTubers breaks a negative YouTuber story, it is easier to swallow then when an outlet that never deals with them does the same. It’s a case of being selective about your coverage coming back to haunt you.
Do websites even have opinions?
There is also an important distinction that needs to be made between ‘news’ and ‘editorial’. The piece you are reading right now is editorial – it is the opinion of me, a writer for WeTheUnicorns – it is not the official opinion of WeTheUnicorns, as a brand. I am one writer on a team of many, and we all express our different opinion in editorial pieces on the website.
That is why this piece has hard opinions and arguments – it is not news. This is one of the most baffling offshoots off the trend of labelling things ‘fake news’: half of the things that people label ‘fake news’ aren’t even ‘news’ in the first place. The WSJ did not present their article as ‘the final judgement of PewDiePie, as delivered by the Wall Street Journal’, it was a writer for the site, making an argument. That does not mean that that writer should be demonised, it simply means that, once again, a distinction must be made between reporting on a valid story and some kind of personal vendetta.
Let’s wrap this up
When Ethan Klein from the rather excellent H3H3 Productions found himself caught out when he tried and failed to accuse the WSJ of falsifying evidence relating to another YouTuber, it didn’t sit well with me. Here we had a talented creator devoting energy towards one particular outlet, seemingly out of a sense of retribution. YouTubers and their audiences seem a little obsessed with the WSJ, out of a frankly unwarranted view that the site is ‘out to get YouTubers’.
This isn’t how the world works. The WSJ is not some demon or enemy just because it followed journalistic protocol and reported on a story that was evidently in the public interest.
As YouTubers continue to become a larger and larger part of popular culture, they (and we in the community) will need to accept that they will be more open to evaluation by the media. Will the media always get it right? Absolutely not. But to attack the very right of the press to report and comment in a free and open way is extremely hypocritical when you consider that the favourite cause to defend for YouTubers tends to be freedom of speech. When WSJ, and other publications, reported on PewDiePie’s apparent anti-Semitism, it was not a positive moment for the online community, but it was news that deserved to be reported. Nothing will be salvaged by attempting to disparage them, or other outlets, after the fact. Sometimes bad news is just bad news.