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Opinion: Why being nice in the online world is no bad thing

Posted by Rob Alderson,

This week Editor-in-Chief Rob Alderson defends the idea of purely positive cultural coverage after controversy about Buzzfeed’s moves into book reviewing. As ever you can add your thoughts using the thread below.

This week Buzzfeed’s new books editor Isaac Fitzgerald caused a stir in the creative community by telling an interviewer that he wasn’t interested in publishing negative reviews on the site.

“Why waste breath talking smack about something?” he is quoted as saying.“You see it in so many old-media type places, the scathing takedown rip.” This plan to avoid negative reviews was widely criticised; sneeringly mocked on Gawker and critiqued in a more sober way on The New York Times website. In that latter piece, the author made what seemed to me a pretty disingenuous leap, saying: “Will Fitzgerald’s ‘positive place’ philosophy become an additional tool for the blind monetisation of everything, or even a final erasure of that once-bright line?… Is this how the Minority Report version of consumerism—ubiquitous, completely inescapable—is going to slip into every corner of our culture? Through the spread of ‘niceness’?”

Obviously with a name like ours, such a cynical take on the idea of being nice struck a chord. I am not denying that the world needs critical cultural coverage and that there are many excellent reviewers who are able to be nuanced in their criticism without resorting to the “scathing takedown rip.”

But equally I believe strongly that in an online world that is awash with sarcasm, cynicism and the most vituperative criticism (which is often anonymous), there is also a place for people like us – or Isaac Fitzgerald – to tend little corners of the internet which are upbeat, enthusiastic unapologetically positive.

To immediately denounce such an approach as some sort of financial strategy does a disservice not only to such sites, but also to their readers, who it is assumed have no idea that they are being hoodwinked by happiness. The great thing about the modern media landscape is that there is room for many different voices. One does not threaten another and my feeling is that It’s Nice That readers buy into an approach that accentuates what is interesting, engaging and exciting.

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Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.

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