Vox launched almost nine months ago, pitching the idea that by utilizing constantly updated articles and taking advantage of the internet’s lack of space constraints, they could “explain” the news in an entertaining and informative manner. It was an interesting premise—maybe even a great one—and readers apparently agreed, as Vox’s traffic and revenue numbers are reportedly great. Which is astonishing, because for a site whose foundation is explaining the news, Vox fucks up a breathtaking amount of stories.
Sometimes Vox gets the name of a grocery store or the year a bill was passed wrong, but errors like that—while unfortunate—are inevitable and excusable. What makes Vox unique is not their errors, but the magnitude of those errors. Whether being taken in by blatant hoaxes, showcasing a clear misunderstanding of a study in an article that has no purpose other than explaining that study, or making multiple mistakes in a post that consists of only a graph or a short paragraph, Vox repeatedly crapped the bed in 2014.
From this vantage point, the problems seem systemic, not the kind that can be fixed simply by asking writers to slow down or hiring a few more editors. Vox has hired a number of Bright Young People—and is run by the Brightest Young People—and the house style seems to be, “Write as if you are an expert, in a tone assuming that everything one needs to know about a subject can be found in your article.” These Bright Young People may well be near-experts on one or two subjects, or at least close enough to pass as such online, but Vox publishes at the same rapid pace as the rest of the internet, on an exceptional and ever-growing number of topics, and there’s only so much authoritativeness to go around. It isn’t merely that writers and editors have screwed up—though they have—but that the ingredients for disaster are hardwired into the site’s design.