You're absolutely right and no, you didn't overstep your claims about SEO at all. I only know a bit because I've been doing the things the SEO company we hired tells me to. There is a lot of basic stuff like backlinks that reddit helps. In a nutshell if your site is linked from another reputable site (there are different levels of reputation) then Google sees you as being better and your listing goes up. So one backlink on a site like reddit will help your ranking on Google. That's why /r/all/new is so terribly filled with obvious spam links. This is a whole separate issue from the clickbaiting, adsense, pageviews thing that blogs also do (#1 offenders are HuffPo & BuzzFeed).
CNN has basically been mining Reddit for its human interest stories for about six years now.
This is another excellent point that I hadn't thought about. CNN has deteriorated as well. They have been pulling quotes and photos from twitter rather than getting reporters on scene for years now. In high school I remember CNN as being the reputable, objective spot. Of course reddit is going to be another great, minimal-effort source for fluffy content.
I also remember the transition from posting the links to the stuff you found on reddit to facebook/twitter/blogs rather than linking to the reddit thread itself. That was a huge shift, occurring about the time of the digg exodus. When it went from being a secret cool kids club to a publicly cool club. I remember being guilty of posting content I found on reddit and having a couple friends who would post the same shit. We felt like we were part of some little inside club. We knew we were posting content that we found on reddit, but didn't call each other out on it.
And holy shit I can't believe you found that link AND I was right about the Steve Martin thing. Bizarre. Thanks so much; that was bothering the shit out of me!
It's okay to submit a link to a secondary source of commentary or analysis, provided that the secondary analysis is the substance of the submission. E.g., a detailed critique of a film review that raises interesting points about the reviewing process or biases of the reviewer is not blogspam.
Even 3 years ago some reddit users understood that fact and but were already fighting a losing battle.
The BEST internet is one where every single blog, website, forum, image gallery, e-commerce site, news aggregator, etc is trying to post dense, high-quality, original content. The WORST internet is one where every site is instead trying to hijack page views by re-posting content that is already available elsewhere. The PURPOSE of sites like reddit is to drill down to the interesting, original, dense content. The HOPE is that this kind of approach will spur more and better content creation and a less-cluttered internet.
Blah. See how far reddit has shifted. Now the best way to accumulate posts is to repost shit that was posted a month, 2 months, a year ago.
This. This. This. Blah.