Archived Chat: Frat House Meets Debate Club When It’s News and It’s Fark

In Monday’s live chat “It’s news and it’s Fark,” Kelly McBride and Fark founder Drew Curtis discussed what happens when real news events power conversations on online networking sites like Fark. You can view the archived chat below.

<a href=”http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php?option=com_mobile&task=viewaltcast&altcast_code=2880a9ace7″ >It’s News and It’s Fark.</a>

You can also revisit this link any time after the chat to watch the replay.

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You’ve heard the phrase, “It’s not news, it’s Fark.” Drew Curtis’ social media site is meant to sum up all that’s wrong in the world of online journalism, where weird, disgusting and ridiculous stories get more attention (and theoretically generate more revenue) than the most important stories of the day. It’s also one-stop shopping for the rather large crowd of juvenile smart alecs who prefer sex jokes to real dialogue about significant events of the day.

Except when it’s not. Ever since its inception, Fark has had the tendency to morph into a serious site, where smart people exchange information and ideas. The Fark crowd still makes plenty of sex jokes (and bodily function references, as well as other behavior befitting high schoolers) even while it’s engaged in the most serious of topics.

The recent civil upheaval in Iran is no exception. While one Fark user, Tatsuma, posted a long, involved, clear explanation of all the oppressive forces in Iran, another user, RoxtarRyan asked in the same thread, “Can they finally show their Boobies?” It’s the frat house meets the debate club.

Curtis’ original intention was to create a single place where you could go online when you didn’t want to work, a warehouse of time-wasting. In doing so, he called attention to the fact that serious newsrooms spend a lot of resources doing frivolous stuff.

In a 2007 article in TheChristian Science Monitor, Curtis wrote, “What’s scary, though, is that the ratio of filler news to real news is now so high that the content of Fark and major news Web sites is often nearly identical.”

Yet, Fark users are further skewing that ratio by exposing their tittering pals to hard-core important information. Iran is only the latest serious topic to get a serious airing. Farkers raised money in the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami. When news sites crashed under the weight of interest after 9/11, the Fark crowd synthesized and shared information. The list of examples goes on and on.

He’s learned a lot about how to help the crowd and how to get out of the way. In an e-mail exchange he said this: “Theme: The next advance in social media is editors.”

Could it be true that the Internet will ultimately become the great democratizing force we were promised? Or is this merely the exception that proves that most online conversation will devolve into a base and profane exchange?

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