National audience awaits Thresher writers
To misquote former Thresher cartoonist Dan Derozier, there are three reasons for alumni to write Thresher columns: loneliness, revenge and the fetishization of lost youth. This column is probably a combo of all three, although the more obvious purpose is to encourage you to write for the Thresher. Back in my day, there were a few key reasons to write for the Thresher. Ranked in ascending effectiveness: resume building, money, power, experience, attention and fun. However, in the few years since my graduation, the way the Thresher functions has undergone a paradigm shift. It used to be the Thresher news and opinion only reached a limited sphere. It certainly had its influence on campus, in the historical records, and among its 6,000 or so subscribers, but that influence was provincial nonetheless. We had a website, but the less said about that, the better.
Now the Thresher's online influence has the potential for the monumental. The website is good, no doubt, but the potential lies not there, but in one simple link. The Thresher is one of the few university newspapers linked on the Huffington Post's college site. The Huffington Post's mix of reporting and celebrity gossip may serve as a sick purgatory for the necropolian denizens of that dying city we call Journalism, but dang if it doesn't get page hits. Given Rice's small student body and open process for writing for the Thresher, this gives students the chance to reach the Huffington Post's millions of viewers.
However, it is only a chance. There is a difference between a link at the bottom of the page and being a featured article. However, the trained reader can find some key patterns in the Huffington Post's featured articles. Adhere to these, and your column could go national.
1. Applicability beyond the hedges:
Rice is notoriously insular, and that is often a good thing. Students focus on problems that directly affect them and how to fix the problems. However, if you want that sweet Internet attention, you are going to have to write about something bigger. How is Rice affected by immigration issues? What about student loans; don't those suck? And what about the gays; how does a university in Texas deal with all that? Inquiring minds want to know.
2. Green-light topics:
Often, the news cycle will somehow greenlight a topic to gain newsworthiness. There is no real rhyme or logic to it, but you should follow it. One week marijuana legalization will gain an undo amount of attention. The next week, typography will be a media darling. Write about the topic of week, whatever it inanely may be.
The Huffington Post loves lists. People read more if it is in list form, and the list format lends itself to multiple page hits, which is the key to Internet money. Write your column in list form, like I am doing right now.
4. Celebrity and politico gossip:
Celebrity gossip gets page hits, and politico gossip gets page hits while letting the reader feel smart and the writer feel like she is reporting on something important. Hang out at the Baker Institute and see if anyone important shows up and says something wacky. Rice fundraisers often bring in the big names, and Lynn Wyatt getting drunk may be enough for a Huffington Post link, or at least a Houston Press blog. Celebrities also sometimes send their kids to Rice, and that can always lead to a great column. I, for one, am disappointed that no one wrote about Daniel Ledeen's kids at Rice.
5. Something sexy:
Sex sells, and despite the "Rice Girls Are Ugly" lies, Rice is full of sex. Write something about NOD. Maybe you know a Rice student who is also a professional stripper. Baker 13 deserves some first person Gonzo journalism.
6. Things that look like other things:
For some reason, the Huffington Post loves running lists of things that look like other things. South Servery fries look like ex-presidents? Maybe you can mold your mashed potatoes into a perfect replication of Mario riding on Yoshi. Or that tree has an amazingly convincing scary face. The best is if you can combine other Huffington Post fetishes into this category, something like: fruits that look like the breasts of former first ladies. I don't get it, but the Huffington Post loves it.
7. Something about Arianna Huffington:
Every week, the front page of the Huffington Post features an article about Arianna's adventures on Sunday morning talk shows. This should be no surprise; anyone willing to name an online newspaper after herself probably has some degree of an ego. And given the page hits, a ego deserved. Feed this ego by writing columns that mention Arianna. Better yet, combine this with other categories. 10 points to the first person to write a column about: Maureen Dowd v. Arianna Huffington, who is hotter?
It used to be that the Thresher's three weekly opinion columns would naturally arrange themselves so that every issue there would be a column about campus issues, a column about issues beyond the hedges and a funny third thing. However, times change, and the never-relenting hunt for page hits and Internet stardom may change this paradigm. So, if you are going to take advantage of the Thresher's Internet attention, at least do it right.
Evan Mintz graduated from Hanszen College in 2008 and is a former Thresher executive editor.
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