Katz and his kindred might just as well call themselves “curiosity journalists.” Curiosities draw the most attention when the story about the story exceeds the story itself. In this case, the question of why American dialects even matter as a topic of public knowledge and citizen debate has been abandoned, for better or worse, in favor of the idea of its existence. That is to say, popularity online now depends on a thing’s thingness, on its ability to distinguish itself as a unique and precious snowflake, rather than by its meaning or its function.
The very fact that a news quiz leads annual traffic in a newspaper of record cuts both ways. On the one hand, it suggests that newsmakers might want (or even need) to invest in more news apps and other uniquely digital features. But on the other hand, it underscores the fact that such features tend not to operate on the same journalistic register as traditional stories. A dialect quiz is fun and interesting, but do we really want it to be the most widely seen news “story” of the year? Even the New York Times isn’t sure. The Northwestern Knight Lab piece on the feature reveals that the newspaper almost didn’t publish it at all, and concludes that the feature is entertainment above all else. To quote Katz: ”at the end of the day it’s fun.” —Ian Bogost – The Atlantic.