The headline above made you click. That’s a huge problem.

I’d be surprised if you haven’t heard about Marius by now. Up until last Sunday he was a baby giraffe living in a little zoo in Denmark, but then he got fed to the lions. Shame.

Truth be said, the zoo – who we’ll at least have to assume knows what it’s doing – explained that little Marius posed as a risk to inbreeding. It was no surprise that internet went apeshit over this though, causing uproar from Disney-fied redditors as well as an American billionaire who offered to buy the poor creature. That’s all fine and well, nothing more than you’d expect. At the end of the day we are all people with capacity for empathy – which is a good thing.

The problem is the attention the whole thing got in the media. Even respected press agencies like AFP who should have been busy reporting whatever else was important at the time got sucked into the dramatic story of a baby giraffe on death row. Surely, it must have seemed cruel to the spectators as Marius got skinned, chopped into pieces and thrown to the carnivores, but I doubt it was the most important thing happening that day, or this week for that matter. While everyone seemed busy mourning Marius and demanding the zoo director’s head on a pole, the fragile ceasefire in South Sudan was violated, restored and eventually converted into real peace talks opening in neighboring Ethiopia yesterday. If you don’t know what I’m talking about here, thousands have been killed and more than 868,000 have had to flee their homes in South Sudan since armed conflict broke out on the evening of 14 December.
Nevertheless, a simple Google search of the phrase “Marius the Giraffe” will return 180 million results, beating “South Sudan conflict” by 76 million. Keep in mind that Marius-gate happened this Sunday, while the trouble in South Sudan has lasted for almost two months now. Ok, I realize a Google search result includes a lot more than the journalism written about the search term, but Google News (which should exclude all the blog posts and lifestyle crap, right?) isn’t much better. Marius still gets 65,600 hits which converts to more than half of the 122,000 articles written about South Sudan – produced in five percent of the time however. The problem of downward pressure in journalistic quality is obviously not restricted to the state of Denmark, but something is definitely rotten. I don’t think any person aware of the facts would encourage that an average of 16 400 news articles daily should be written about a giraffe getting eaten by lions, when a conflict affecting hundreds of thousands people barely make the front page. That is what the market forces are doing to online journalism these days though, and you can’t really blame the newspapers. They need to make a profit to stay in business, and as long as we – the readers – keep clicking the headlines starting with Why…, How or 5 ways to… while ignoring the real news, they’ll be forced to keep writing these crap stories (which I doubt any of them are proud to craft).

I personally read a lot of news through my work with SoTheyReport.com, but hadn’t even heard about the conflicts in Blue Nile, South Kordofan and Darfur until I stumbled upon an article about them this morning. The South Kordofan and Blue Nile conflict has lasted since June 2011, but still a search on Google News only returns 175 results.

So, I suppose it can seem heartless, but in light of how trash news distorts our perception of reality and distracts awareness from the real disasters of the world, I have to admit I don’t give a flying f*ck about Marius the dead baby giraffe.

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