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MASSIVE Update: The xodus

Hi all!

I’ve been away for a while – some serious things have been going down over on xoJane, to the point where I believe the course of my project may have been entirely changed.

The relationship between regular xoJane commenters and the editorial staff have been tense for a while. Comments have frequently ridiculed the number of typos left in articles, complained of a general decline in quality of content, and have expressed anger at articles perceived as “click baiting.” Click baiting refers to the practice of editors making the deliberate choice to publish articles that they know will make their audiences angry, causing them to click on the article to complain. Since advertising revenue is heavily based on the number of clicks a site generates, the practice of click baiting is seen as an under-handed attempt to garner profits at the expense of readers.

A massive argument broke out in the comments of this article that ran in January. ( There are currently over 3,000 comments on the article – extremely high numbers for a site that typically has between 100-300 comments even on pieces written by popular authors. Accusations of racism and click baiting abounded. xoJane responded to the piece the next day with an article by the assigning editor (, but never apologized for running the piece. Comments became even more livid when it was revealed that the assigning editor referred to the angry commenters as “fuckers” on her Facebook page. People made frequent references to other sites they could attempt to jump to as a community, and also made reference to the fact that many of them had jumped ship from Jezebel when they perceived it had gone downhill. The crisis eventually quieted down, but it was clear that the readers had not forgotten xoJane’s decision to run that piece, and frequently referred to “yogagate” in comments on other articles.

All of this is necessary to understand the context for what happened next.

About two weeks ago, on a Sunday, xoJane ran a piece in their popular It Happened to Me series, which is designed to give amateur writers a chance to publish pieces about their unique life experiences. This particular entry contained a graphic description of the sexual abuse the author suffered at the hands of her step father, and revealed that she was still living with him as she had no money to move out of his and her mother’s house. The article ran under her nickname, contained a photo of her face, and had no indication of the graphic descriptions that were within the article.

The commenters on the piece acted quickly, setting up a fund for the author to help her move out of that house. As of now, it has raised $5,395. ( Commenters expressed outrage at xoJane’s decision to run a piece with the author’s face and name, as there was concern that her abuser would be able to discover she had written the piece. People became even more angry when it became clear that Jane Pratt, the head of xoJane, had not read the piece, or even known of its existence, before it was put up on the website. The author initially commented on the piece stating that she did not feel exploited by Jane and the staff and was glad to have a place to receive the support of the audience, but later became uncomfortable when people were able to discover her real identity on social media via the photo and name she had provided. The xoJane staff responded by moving the piece under an “anonymous” credit and taking the photo down, as well as linking to the fund in her name.

A few days later, the editors issued a brief statement, and ultimately took the piece down entirely. ( However, that statement did not do much to repair the editors’ relationship with the commenters. People accused them of refusing to do anything to prevent editorial scandals, and for being unprofessional by not giving the author of the IHTM piece proper warning about the ease with which people would be able to discover who she was.

The commenters had finally hit their breaking point. A forum for “exjaners” was quickly created, and the link was distributed throughout various commenting threads on xoJane. The new forum now has thousands of members, and they are working on developing a permanent, brand-new women’s website for themselves, and others.

So, that’s what has been happening over the past few weeks! What do you guys think? Tweet me @ID_the_N!

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#1 POSTED BY Zoe Sera Goetzmann, 04/02 12:05 PM

Really great post! I totally get where the audience, blogger, and editors are coming from. That being said, although the Internet was created, in order to discuss these very issues, I could not help, but to 'fear' how harsh and critical some of these opinions turned out to be. I think people often 'forget' about the different perceptions, that their writing will have on their readings. Dealing with topics, such as race is always touchy, even in our real life. So, I don't think, that this writer should be personally condemned with what she wrote, but I do think the Internet shouldn't be shocked with reading about an opinion piece, which was assigned by the editor. That is what the Internet/blogs were created to do. If anything, it is the editor's fault in assigning the title of the article, also for their complete lack of professionalism in dealing with a 'PR crisis.' 

#2 POSTED BY Dominique Brielle Fluker, 04/02 8:38 PM

Thank you for introducing the term "Click baiting" before this post, I did not know about this terminology. This post was extremely interesting to me because it raised the question of what is appropriate enough to post on a blog and what is going "too far"... Im keeping this post in mind for when I read the xoJane article assigned. Now I am interested in reading the audience's comments on the article for this week. 

#3 POSTED BY Andres Govea, 04/02 9:09 PM

I hate to play devils advocate here, but the author of the post would have had to read other "It Happened to Me" posts if she wanted to post one herself. She would have known her name and picture where going to be provided if all the other IHTM post were formatted in the same way. Guaranteed what happened to her in her personal life was awful, but she did allow herself to share it to the world. I think it is important to look at this article in a different perspective- yes, the editorial staff should have paid closer attention to the authors piece and (sarcastically) I don't know maybe even read it, but if it wasn't for their plunder she would not have the readers raise money to leave her home situation. I want to pose a question to you: Do you think this was a hop on the bandwagon type of ordeal with the readers of XOJane, if the author herself initially commented on the piece stating that she did not feel exploited by Jane? With that said, would you have liked to hear more from the author of the piece because this article was manly driven by the readers of XOJane response to the author's problem as oppose to the author herself? 

#4 POSTED BY guest guest, 04/02 11:54 PM

I just read the articles and checked out xojane's about page and commenting policy. My question is, particularly in reaction to the existence of articles such as "There Are No Black People in my Yoga Class" is: what is the website actually trying to accomplish? - Its all about communication, comments are considered just as important as the posts themselves.

My understanding of this self-definition is a desire to create a space that fosters free discussion  about issues pertaining to women "regardless of age, size, ability, etc…" The commenting policy states that "Threatening, defamatory, harassing, or libelous material -- including but not limited to attacks on the author’s or fellow commenter’s appearance." goes against their code. However, the plethora of comments on the post were exactly this kind of aggressive language. By hosting such inflammatory content, they are inviting these angry audiences.

If the click-baiting is actually a tactic for the website to make money through advertisement, then I suspect that the true "goal" of this website is to provide a discussion space, while being economically fruitful for the owners. The question is, is it wrong for the owners of the website to engage in this behavior, or do they need to redefine their About page to address these kinds of posts? Bullshit detectors, activated.

#5 POSTED BY Matthew Graham Silver, 04/02 11:55 PM

Sorry! Forgot to log in, last comment was by me.

#6 POSTED BY Rachel Michelle Glicksberg, 04/03 2:30 PM

Fascinating piece and I agree with mathew that I'm not sure what the piece "there are no black people in my yoga class" article's point however I don't think it is racist and think that the site does want open discussion. I agree with andres, that the author allowed them to post a picture and nickname so it is not there fault--they had good intentions, and they eventually took it down. I think people are too quick to jump ship and have to work with people more. Companies and people make mistakes and I think the company handled the situation well.

#7 POSTED BY guest guest, 06/11 6:09 PM

That is a crazy situation.  I feel that the internet is giving way more people to speak out about things that bother them whether it is justified or not.  To me it seems that some go to more extremes than others but some do take it too far and cause big problems (be it the audience or the author.) I am sorry that girl had to experience that and that other people felt it was okay to invade her personal life just because her name was available to them.   I hope if she hasn't already gotten free of that situation that she will soon. Good luck to this blog in its future endeavors!  

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