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Opinion
Sarasota Thursday, Mar. 15, 2018 1 year ago

The reality of Siesta Key’s reality show

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Many readers groan at the mere mention of MTV’s ‘Siesta Key.’ So why do we write about it at all?
by: Kat Hughes Executive Editor

Every time The Observer publishes something about the MTV reality show “Siesta Key,” two things happen: The article becomes one of our top stories online, and we get loads of comments, mostly asking why we write about it and saying no one cares.

You can see how the two are contradictory. 

To fully understand the “Siesta Key” question, and fully answer why we write about it and explain what we’re writing, let’s go back to the beginning. 

When MTV announced in July 2017 that it was starting a reality show based on a group of Siesta Key 20-somethings, the response locally was immediate and one-sided. Area residents feared it would misrepresent this gem of an island to the world, tarnishing its reputation. They also feared it would inspire a flood of the “wrong kind of people” coming to invade our beaches, imagining a Daytona Beach party land of college-aged rabble rousers camping out on the Key. Residents feared it would affect their way of life and even change the character of Siesta.

We covered the announcement of the show and the bizarre events around it — such as the video of show ringleader Alex Kompothecras allegedly shooting a shark from a boat — as news, because it was. It’s not every day that a national television network sets up shop in your neighborhood, filming locals. When that happens, it’s news, and we write about it. The same is true for movies that have been filmed in the area and other projects that come to town. 

The difference is that “Siesta Key” — so far — is here to stay. 

What we learned from the early coverage of the show is we could publish just about anything about it and the article would attract large amounts of reader traffic online. Like, crazy amounts of traffic … we’re talking traffic that rivals our coverage of Hurricane Irma. With today’s tracking tools on our website, we can see how many people read which articles, and even for how long. The surprise? Stories about the show not only topped that list, but people read them for a longer period of time than anything else on YourObserver.com.

We had a decision to make as a newsroom: Do we continue to cover it because it’s popular online, or do we taper our coverage to only report the most newsworthy events the show creates?

Because I work at the Observer and not some other news outlet, this is a no-brainer. We aren’t about clicks; we’re about community. We weren’t about to write about something just because readers gobbled it up online.

So, after writing about the show’s debut and exploring how residents felt about it and their concerns about its effects, we decided everyone had enough with news of the show and pulled back our coverage.

At that point, two of our reporters asked if they could write an online blog reviewing the show for our Arts & Entertainment section. They had in mind a snarky, no-holds-barred approach that would mostly mock the show while recapping the ridiculousness of its “reality.” 

What they created was “Key Notes,” a blog that reviews each episode. They make fun of characters. They roll their proverbial eyes at the storyline. 

It’s opinion, not news, and it is hilarious. I haven’t watched an episode of the show, yet I can’t wait to read “Key Notes” each week because it’s all you need to know. It doesn’t remotely promote the show. If anything, it’s an unbridled critique of how bad it is.

Readers love it. They consistently spend more time on these pages than any other on our website, and it still attracts enough traffic to make it a Top 10 story most weeks, even with its only promotion being a post on Facebook. 

Commenters still hate it. But, we suspect most of our Facebook commenters aren’t actually reading the post. We guess, like many things on Facebook, people look at the headline and picture and comment without bothering to read the article. 

“No One Cares!!!” posted one last week.

“Why do you continue to write about this? We don’t care!” wrote another.

The reality of this reality show is there is still a large number of our readers who hate the show, want to see it discontinued and believe that, by writing a review of it, we’re somehow promoting the show to give it life. I doubt our posts have any effect on MTV’s decisions to continue its show. All I can say is, in times of frustration or despair, sometimes it’s best to poke fun at things out of your control. As Mark Twain once said, “The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.” 

For those who refuse this option, I have one last consolation: The show is over … until next season.

Kat Hughes is executive editor of the Longboat, Sarasota, Siesta Key and East County Observers.

 

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