Honoring a Loss versus Profiting from a Tragedy

Whether you’re an iFan or not, you have to admit that this week’s loss of Steve Jobs means the world is a less wonderful place. Jobs was an indisputable genius who changed the world in ways that we can’t even really fully realize yet, since awesome people are still building on what he gave us. I’m not an Apple user for the most part, but I am completely saddened to think of the amazing mind we have lost.

I found out about Jobs’ death on Twitter. True story. When the news broke, my Twitter stream exploded, and for a solid ten minutes or so, I don’t think I saw a single tweet that didn’t relate to his death. Perhaps it is a testament to the company I keep, but I also didn’t see a single negative word about Jobs, even from friends of mine who are not Apple people.

And then, I started to see the links. Without question, when someone as important as Jobs dies, people are going to write about that loss. First, the links were basically rehashed news stories and biographies of his life. That’s certainly to be expected. More feature-y pieces then hit the Internet, some of them good and some of them not-so-good. That’s the case with any news event, and as sad as it is, Jobs’ death is definitely a news event.

Sometimes, however, I feel like people cross the line. There’s a difference between honoring the life of someone we’ve lost versus profiting from a tragedy.

Let’s face it; as bloggers, our goal is to reach people with our words. I definitely support using current events as a way to bring new readers to your site, since that’s the information people want right now. When the news is tragic, however, I personally don’t think it is the time to think about your traffic and it certainly isn’t the time to think about your potential profits. Yet, people will game the system to profit from Jobs’ death, the same way that I see people using natural disasters, 9/11, and celebrity deaths to make money.

We’re better than that. Really, we are. I honestly believe that the human race is better than using the passing of someone so special as a way to get rich.

That doesn’t mean you can’t write about Jobs. In fact, I personally think that it can honor the man to blog about what his life meant to you and what it means now that he’s gone. That said, here are a few pieces of advice that I hope you’ll take in order to truly write something with grace, rather than writing something disgusting.

  • Take down your ads. Of course, you might not be able to turn off your sidebar ads on that post or get rid of other ad services, but what you can do is create posts that don’t have blatant ads in them. I saw a 10+ page slideshow on one of the major news sites about jobs and halfway through I got one of those annoying ad slides that was like “click to skip.” Seriously, it was unnecessary and I felt horrified that they would place advertising in the middle of what was supposed to be a tribute. I saw another post by a blogger who used an affiliate link every time he mentioned an Apple product in his Jobs mini-biography post. Gross. Seriously gross.
  • Be respectful with your topics. Remember that there are a lot of people hurting right now. I’m sad about Jobs’ death, but can you imagine what his friends and family members are going through right now? And yes, they might read the post you write, even if you think your blog is not well-known. If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. This is the one kind of situation where I encourage people to shut their mouths if they have negative opinions. Give people some time to mourn.
  • Be careful with the tie-in topics. When something major happens outside of your niche, you can find a way to tie in the topic, making it relevant for readers. It’s a springboard, so to speak. For example, if you blog about parenting but the news is dominated by a presidential election, you could write a post about how parents are like presidents or do a where-are-they-now piece on children who grew up in the White House. With a tragedy like a death, however, be careful with the tie-in topics. This post itself is somewhere of a tie-in, but I think some people go a bit overboard. Write a post because it’s important to tell people, not because you want the traffic from people searching for news on Jobs’ death. It comes off as petty.

There’s no better way to end this post, in my opinion, than to give you all a link to the American Cancer Society. If you like what you read here or what you read ANYWHERE about Steve Jobs, don’t comment or sign up for my mailing list or buy my book or click on my ads. Just go donate so that the world’s next genius doesn’t have his or her life cut short.

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Head zombie wrangler here at Blog Zombies. Obsessed with all things social media. Lover of shenanigans and pancakes. Definitely not a ninja.

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