One of the first things people ask when they read one of the Iced Reports is, “Why do you call everyone Baby Birds? Why do you call yourself Mama Bird?”
In the first Iced Report, I explained the joke by saying, “I know that pop culture/gossip can be really hard to digest sometimes, so that’s why this Mama Bird will be digesting it for you and then feeding it back to you.”
The key is this, though: I mean this statement ironically, because most of us realize that pop culture/gossip isn’t that hard to digest. The vast majority of websites now focus on giving their readers easily digestible content and assuming the worst of you. They may not call you Baby Birds, but they treat you like one. We want to do something a little different and we want to assume the best of you, not the worst. I don’t actually believe that you are Baby Birds that need to be spoon-fed information from a Mama Bird.
So what do I actually believe?
I believe that you want original and compelling content. When student loan rates doubled, you really didn’t care who was blaming who – you were probably more concerned with how much your loan payments were actually going up. When you search for “villager memes,” you don’t want the same ones everyone is posting – you want genuinely original content. Those of you living in New York don’t want rehashed press releases – you want to know what is cheap and fun to do over the weekend. You have enough sites that will simply spread rumors without looking into them – and that you like it when someone calls law enforcement and tries to actually clear up a rumor. I think you’d actually like to see some new and unique artwork from lesser-known artists. And I believe you want all of these things on one website.
I believe that you are smarter than a lot of other sites give you credit for. You can handle several thousand world columns on the state of sports in Los Angeles. You can handle an analysis of complex government policy. You can handle surreal looks at basketball games. When you ask me how the site is doing, you can handle some statistics. And I believe that if you can sum up one of my articles with a little badge that says “LOL” or “WTF,” then I have failed you.
I believe that opinions that run contrary to popular belief are a good thing. When some young girl makes some stupid comments, I think it’s a good thing to defend her while everyone else is criticizing her. I think it’s a good thing when a Democrat talks about what he admires in Chris Christie or when he criticizes MSNBC – and I think it’s a good thing when a Republican does the reverse. And I believe that adding these voices to the national dialogue are more important than chasing page-views by pandering to popular opinion.
I believe that criticism is more than a block quote from someone else’s article with a “commentary” of one sentence attached. I think that you would actually like it if someone went through some arguments line-by-line for a change. I think you wouldn’t mind it if someone actually took some information and wrote a personal reflection on it instead of just repeating it to you. And I believe that these things are reasonable.
I believe that artistic criticism is more than whether or not a work is good or bad. You’ve seen Tarantino’s latest movie and you know you liked it – you’d rather get engaged with Django Unchained’s themes. You’ve already listened to Yeezus – now you’d like to learn more about the influences behind some of the songs. And I believe that this criticism isn’t being provided elsewhere.
I believe that the most important role of criticism is to offer solutions. When we criticize a game, we’ll point out what we think is missing. When we criticize Republicans for failing to reach out to Hispanic voters, we’ll outline how we think it can be done. And I believe that you deserve this kind of engagement with ideas instead of the stale “he said, she said” debates you see on national television.
I believe that linking to our sources is simply the right thing to do. When we use an image created by someone else, we will do everything in our power to find who actually made it and give them credit – no small, almost hidden links. Sometimes, we’ll do full-fledged academic-style notations. When we reference articles by someone else, we will link to their article multiple times in ours. And I believe this because we want to support those making things we enjoy, not take from them.
I believe that unlike what you are taught in basic web development, outbound-links are a good thing – there are sites out there that are better written, more thought-provoking and funnier than this one and if one of our links means that you spend the day there instead of with us, then that’s good. It means that we need to improve our work. And I believe that we will always need to improve.
And most importantly, I believe that these things do not happen by accident and that they are only the result of constant effort on our part. Not every article will live up to these standards. Sometimes we will cite an image incorrectly. Sometimes one of my articles will simply end up being not that funny, no matter how hard I tried. And I believe that this is O.K., but only if we will continually strive to get better – if we will correct the citations, if we add new jokes, if we constantly are editing and refining.
The Internet is the greatest equalizer the world has ever seen – any person with access to it can find all the known information in the world. But if we only use it to rehash the same low-aiming content over and over again, then what’s the point? One-hundred years from now, no one will remember BuzzFeed, Gawker or the Huffington Post. We don’t want to join that list.
Will this site ever be perfect? Of course not. But unlike some sites, we will at least try.
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