Covering the news is tricky business — lean too far in one direction and you create enemies. Attempt to correct it and not only do you keep your old enemies, you add new ones who claim you are afraid to take a stand or “a flip flopper.” Landon Dowlatsingh of YouTube channel LandonProduction is likely no stranger to people leaving negative comments about his tactics. But one Redditor claims Landon has gone too far.
Redditor u/Spuffeh claims that a video Landon posted recently of a young man’s death from a rare blood cancer was merely clickbait to lure in viewers. In his Reddit post, Spuffeh states that the cancer patient in question, David, is a friend from high school and college and that essentially Landon’s coverage of David’s death was superficial and calculated to profit from the grim news:
The video itself corroborates Spuffeh’s assertion — David’s piece in the video is brief considering how much the title and description give to the news of the young man’s passing.
But here’s the thing: it certainly isn’t against YouTube’s Terms & Conditions and it certainly isn’t illegal. But is it wrong? I decided to tab up the number of seconds devoted to David in the 3:40 video that portends to “tell his story.” Including the brief intro where Landon mentions a teaser that spans five seconds before he dives in to talk about the question of the day for nine seconds (morbidly, the question for the day is about your “bucket list.”). The total time devoted to David in the video is 37 seconds. And that is including the part where Landon says, “Crazy story, my sincere condolences go out to his family and loved ones. Okay, how many of you have heard of DeepFace?”
From there, we are on to DeepFace news, flamethrower talk and Amazon drones. None of which was apparently sensational enough for a grabby headline like “Teenager Dies From Rare Form Of Blood Cancer.”
It’s a fine line between tacky and decent in reporting on the news, which Landon makes no bones is his tradecraft. He’s a web journalist with over 1000 videos, all of them dedicated to delving through the news stories of the day, not unlike a Phil DeFranco or The Young Turks. Or if you want to go more broad: all news organizations on television.
While it’s true that Landon doesn’t seem sincere about David’s death and there isn’t exactly a compelling reason to cover the story for his channel (thereby making it perhaps clickbait-ish), what is news really? And why should any of us get to make that determination?
The real danger is in Spuffeh taking advice from other Redditors in r/YouTube, the subreddit the complaint is posted in. The majority of the responders tell Spuffeh to complain about the channel or try and get it banned. How would that be a rational response? Sometimes insensitive SEO-driven headlines happen, it’s the nature of the media these days. We’ve got to find an angle that will make you tune in. I ask you, what’s worse? Landon bringing public attention (albeit not exactly with the sincerity perhaps due a fellow human) or no attention being focused on David’s life or disease? With the news piece, at least someone can become motivated to take a positive action: whether it’s donating money, getting themselves checked out, or searching for a cure. By attempting to silence Landon’s coverage, none of these things will be a result.
On the other hand, let me leave you with this: to maximize impact for the David story, Landon left the teen’s face up on his monitors throughout the show … including when he hopefully inadvertently superimposed a guy shooting a flamethrower right at one of them. Sigh.
Landon responded to these allegations via Twitter:
@NewRockstars I was sincere about David's story and every story I cover! I just try to always bring awareness to situations!
— Landonproduction (@LandonYoutube) March 26, 2015