When I think of SEO (search engine optimization), silly slide shows and headlines about Lindsey Lohan come to mind. But unemployment benefits?

This morning I criticized the play The New York Times and Washington Post gave news that House Republicans blocked an extension of unemployment benefits and quibbled with The Wall Street Journal, which gave it decent play, for not putting comparing the $12 billion cost with that of extending the Bush tax cuts.

The Times dropped the news in two paragraphs deep in a story on A16 while the Post gave it three sentences in a story on A3 (which led off with some eight paragraphs on tax cuts).

But guess what: Readers really, really want information about this story.

Our traffic spiked this morning like it does when we get an inbound link from a popular site. I looked to see who linked us. But there’s no big link. All that traffic is coming from people Googling “unemployed benefits” and the like—which has already brought us more visits in six hours than any other keyword has this month (if it SEOs well, it’ll sell papers, too, by the way).

Now, maybe our traffic spike was a fluke of Google News placement or something. I don’t know. The point is, people want to read about this story. Indeed, many, many of them need to read about this story. What the heck are you doing not covering it day in and day out?

Here are a few of those in the need-to-know camp—some of the people who took time to comment on that post this morning. Read them all:

Here’s James Shockley:

I need help from my Goverment!!!!! I am 60 years old and unemployed for over 1 year now. I am on my computer for several hours a day posting my Resume and applying for jobs. I have had interviews but have not been hired yet. I need the unemployment money so I can pay the bills while I continue to look for a job. If we can spent Billions on unnessary wars, then we can keep people afloat while the despertly look for work.

Troy:

Hey goverment, you can give millions to war, you can bail banks and car companys out with millions of my taxes. Now I need help because I can’t find a job in my state. (Industrial Electrician). GM just started paying You back, Do you understand you get that money back alot faster when you give it to the people that will turn right around and spend that monet on housing, food, fuel. because they NEED TOO. That damn war pays nothing back, and will keep costing long after its over. If millions lose thier house do you think they will be able to buy another. Lets see you foreclose on your house, even if you get another job what bank will loan you money…

David Carignan:

I have been unemployed for a year and a half. While i have had many job interviews there are so many people applying there is always someone more experienced to take the job. I am all for stopping unemployment benefits when there are many jobs and people are not taking them

Daria Rockwell:

I pray I will still have a home at Christmas. Working 2 jobs for so many years & now jobless for 6 mos…please understand we WANT JOBS but need ALL parties to understand even when homeless- I WILL VOTE IN 2012! I do not want welfare, please extend unemployment until summer recovery begins! Rich or poor- do the right thing, tax cuts vs unemployment benefits….really?

DB:

Just got off the phone with Mom, after another interview that resulted with “Sorry, we are looking for somebody else”. She is on week 18 of 26 on state benefits (laid off in June) and will be SOL after that. Had the same job for ten years before she was laid off, every lead so far has been no response or no thanks. Can’t sleep at night thinking about her situation, but luckily the elite will only lose sleep deciding how many Christmas presents they will be able to by with their $83,000 tax cut. God Bless America!

Most of these people aren’t regular readers of our little business-media-criticism blog at CJR. They’re jobless, depressed or frustrated, and Googling for any scrap of news that might give them hope or, if not that, at least some certainty about the future: “Am I going to be out on the street because of politics while bailed-out bankers pay themselves near-record bonuses and millionaires get $100,000 a year tax cuts? Are you kidding me?”

Again, one in ten Americans is unemployed. The rate has been higher longer than any time since the Great Depression. One in six is jobless or wants full-time work and can’t find it. There are five unemployed people for every one job opening. But nobody’s doing anything about it—corporations are sitting on their trillions, stimulus money is running out, and politicians are talking about slashing spending and raising taxes to cut the deficit.

And if you think the economy’s going to pick up a head of steam anytime soon, my guess is you haven’t been out there looking for work.


Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.