Anyone who spends time on the web has seen the words FAIL splashed across pictures of cats with their heads stuck in empty cans or dogs dressed by their humans as Oompa Loompas. Don't get us wrong, those can be pretty funny. But you know what's even better? Making the digital bombast of FAIL less associated with the minor humiliations of pets, and more so with the project of media reform -- which just may involve a more pointed, and meaningful, kind of humilation.
Media-advocacy nonprofit Free Press today launches the online tool MediaFAIL, a user-generated system that allows anyone to call out an instance of media bias, stereotyping, factual decifiency, wack framing, or general ass-showing. Here's how it works: Let's say a media outlet, perhaps one whose name rhymes with "Buffington's Ghost," publishes a story about the man who attempted to blow up Times Square a few weeks back, but in a rush to scoop other outlets publishes the photo of an innocent dude who happens to share the same name as the would-be explodeur. That would be a hell of a media fail. And if you weren't the one to post the item but wanted to show that you also think that's a really special fail, you could click the "Fail It!" button next to the item and add your own virtual "tsk" of disapproval. Or let's say you're really annoyed that all these media outlets are like, "Hey, did you know that any woman who has ever thrown a softball is totally a lesbian and thus a questionable pick for the Supreme Court?" you could submit one of those articles as a big old fail. Like I did! The site is engineered to feed into Facebook and Twitter accounts, and is incredibly easy (and, it must be said, very satisfying) to use.
But the point of MediaFAIL isn't to simply chuckle at the crappy coverage, biased reporting, and egregious sexism and racism of so much mainstream media. Free Press, after all, is an organization whose mission is to make media better. And the project's aim is to, as MediaFAIL's "About" page puts it, not just "give the media a failing grade—we want it to pass." Their current "Epic Fail" is a FOX News segment that willfully misunderstands the concept of net neutrality; but far from simply mocking the cluelessness of anchor Megyn Kelly, the fail highlights Free Press's "Save the Internet" campaign for net neutrality. As the site grows, there's obviously going to be tons of potential for drawing attention to quotidian and ongoing failures, but also for making sure that big ones don't simply fall off the map. FP's Online Campaign Manager Josh Levy noted, in a phone conversation, that the organization is exploring the possibility of a "Fail of the Month" club, as well as regular communiqués to honored failees letting them know that they're being held accountable.
So are you fixed to get failing yet? Us too. See you there!