It's Always August

There are lots of different corners of the web, most of which have the good graces to be supportive and interesting and to act like, well, a community. People generally like to be social. But then there’s the high-profile personal websites, full of pundits and supernerds, and the kinds of people who I imagine talk on wireless headsets on their cell phones while at a restaurant. For these people, it’s always August.
August at Shackleford Banks.jpg
First, a little background. If you’ve never worked in the publishing or media industries, you might not know that August is officially the month where everyone basically phones it in. Back in New York, people would speak of going to The Hamptons so often that it’s been verbed into “Hamptoning” and used as a generic term for going on vacation. While bigwigs and editors are away cavorting, a makeshift army of interns, temps, and recent college grads generally takes over. These kids usually don’t have much experience, and newspaper editors don’t want to have to do any hard work during the dog days, so the end result is that you get a combination of lazy writing and some really crappy journalism.
What kind of crappy journalism? Listicles! “Best Of”s. Special Theme Issues. And all of these pieces are topped by blaring, or alarmist, or horribly-punned headlines. You might notice that the other time of year this happens is around the end of the year or at New Year’s, when Christmas and the other December holidays conspire to leave major media outlets virtually unstaffed. Then, you get year-end wrapups or another round of Best Ofs.
Indeed, as former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card famously told the New York Times, “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.”
So, then, why is it always August in the “look at me!” part of the blogosphere? Because the people who are blogging for an audience of thousands, or for hundreds of thousands, are prone to a lot of those same tendencies. Digg and delicious and the rest are littered with Top 10s and geek equivalents of Cosmo coverlines. It’s not long until we get “21 Ubuntu Install Tips That Will Drive Him Crazy In Bed!”
It’s harmless, mostly. Hell, lots of it is even fun reading. But I’m struck by how the combination of light or lazy editing, an attention span too short to suffer much fact-checking, and the temptation of easy distractions like, say, a day at the beach can result in the exact same tropes being trotted out, regardless of medium.
I should point out that, despite the fact it sounds like a criticism, I’m not against this kind of thing, really. I just find it ironic that the people who make up the high-profile part of the blogosphere spend all their time living like it’s August while accusing the rest of the blogosphere for sounding like the September that never ended.
The photo, by the way, is what Shackleford Banks looks like in August. So I’m not saying August is a bad thing.