OPINION: Tinder for journalists could be worse than it sounds

Tinder for journalists might just be the scariest pitch I’ve encountered. But apparently that’s what this profession has come to—swiping for story ideas.

Billed as the first interactive mobile application for journalists, the free-to-use UPitch is set to come to a mobile device near us beginning next month.

In an email to media outlets, co-creator Allison Kugel explained the app’s approach to pitching ideas that meet reporters’ interests and coverage areas. Writing that UPitch combines Tinder’s lower-brain-functioning swipe technology (right for good, left for bad) with LegalZoom’s “self-service business model,” the app lets journalists tailor their settings by industries and geography before thumbing through 400-character pitches with title, summary, photos and, eventually, videos.

Instead of logging on through Facebook like Tinder users do, journalists would create their UPitch accounts through LinkedIn, which is funny because it’s LinkedIn and I just remembered I need to update the 2009 photo I have up there. And probably all of my information.

But instead of swiping for networking friends with health benefits, the point of UPitch is finding valuable news tips.

But provided by whom?

Kugel’s email says story ideas will be uploaded by public relations professionals (“PR pros” is what she actually writes), brands, people and “[n]ewsmakers,” a vague term that fills me with no small amount of skepticism.

In fact, journalists should catch their breaths upon reading that the first two categories of story tipsters involve corporate flaks of one variety or another.

These are the shiny, smiley pod people who try to get us to write about Hallmark’s new mystery movie, Gourmet Detective, or narc on their own customers, like Sugar Daddy did by naming gray-haired men in Sacramento its ninth biggest customer base. (Retch.)

I don’t think any media professional wants an app that requires him or her to comb through more of this crap. Most of us already spend too much of our Gallaga time sifting through emails, tweets, voicemails and, every once in a blue moon, actual handwritten letters in the hopes of finding a flake of story gold.

But we also live in constant fear of missing out on the next, big scoop. And if this transitioning industry begins to prioritize click-bait content over boots-on-the-ground reporting, there are plenty in this slimmed-down field who might prefer being lobbed softballs that score easy hits rather than, you know, inform people and affect policy.

So UPitch will probably find an audience of some kind, at least initially.

But will it make for better stories?

Ehhh, I’m swiping left on that one.

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