If the constant outpouring of truly vitriolic attacks—on everything from his writing to his looks, from commenters wishing that he’ll lose his job to commenters hoping he and his entire family will die and rot in hell—bothers Chase, he doesn’t show it. After four years of this, he’s able to take it all in stride (something he admits his mother has had a harder time doing). “As long as my bosses are happy with what is being produced, I tend not to care,” he says. Commenters have accused him of trolling them, writing things solely designed to inflame them and bump up pageviews. Chase denies this. “I don’t write for reaction,” he says, but “I know that if I write a post about Ben Roethlisberger and reference his sordid past, his fans are gonna come out of the woodwork.”
And Chase does take a few precautions to protect himself and his family from the haters. He keeps his Facebook account as private as possible. He password-protected his wedding website “just in case.” He avoids mentioning family or his personal life in his writing — Chase has chosen to put himself up for criticism; his loved ones did not. His friends, on the other hand (yes, haters, he has friends!) tend to enjoy scanning through comments on his articles, often sending Chase “the best ones.”
And to one of his haters’ biggest arguments that his stories are “inconsequential,” Chase points out that it’s his job to create that kind of “shareable, buzzy content,” — which is often what gets his employer the most hits. The article about Christina Aguilera’s national anthem mistake during the 2011 Super Bowl got 15 times as many comments as the coverage of the game itself. Yahoo’s most-shared and most-commented article on the London Olympics wasn’t about any of the events, but the taxes American medalists owe on their winnings.
Chase’s critics aren’t easy to track down for comment. Attempts to reach Bryant Burciaga, Web editor of the University of Colorado Denver’s student paper, the Advocate, were unsuccessful. Of the Advocate’s five most popular articles, two of them are about Chris Chase, who says the fact that anyone cares enough about his work one way or the other to write an article makes him happy. Burciaga wrote the most recent, “Chris Chase Fired!,” about Chase’s departure from Yahoo, and is one of the few to attach his real name to criticism of Chase (none of the Facebook communities, Twitter accounts, or Tumblrs I found had creator names or emails attached). Burciaga wrote:
After getting knee deep in the pile of cow manure Chase spits out for the week, you come to realize that everyone has a point. This man, cannot, for the life of him, write.
Yet Burciaga is guilty of the same careless reporting of which he has accused Chase. For Chase was not fired from Yahoo — he left the site after the 2012 Olympics for USA Today.
And Chase has his haters to thank for his new job. He’s pretty sure their engagement with his work was part of what made him an attractive hire. Those 5,500 people on Facebook who like the “Fire Chris Chase!” page keep coming back, don’t they? For all the grief Chase gets, he’s still thrilled to be able to share his opinions so many readers. In the beginning, he remembers being excited when his blog got 16 hits in a day. At Yahoo, he had millions. At USA Today, he says, “the hope is that some of the haters have followed.”
And maybe a few fans, too.