Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Blog Entry of the Century!

The snow storm of the century turned out to be a dud. We got 2 inches. Two. That’s it. Now, I’m not complaining about the amount. In fact, I’m really grateful that I’ve only had to break out my snowblower once all season. No, I’m bitter than my school was cancelled and I’m going to have to give up a day of my precious summer vacation because the news lives to sensationalize and my Executive Director felt pressure to act as he did because of superfluous attention by the local media on a storm that, however newsworthy for the mid-Atlantic, had the effect of needlessly scaring parents.

I’m railing about this because it’s come up repeatedly in the last little while. Scott Brown Win Referendum on Obama and Democrats. Toyota Recalls Lead to Lingering Questions. World Awaits Word on Tiger's Return. These are just three of the countless headlines that have appeared in print and over the airwaves in the last little in an attempt not to simply impart information, but to stun, surprise and shock us into paying attention to their version of it.

These stories, while based on fact, allow the public to make improper and misleading assumptions, which in turn cause people to react, rather than think critically about the kernels of fact and truth upon which the stories are supposedly built. For example, the news proclaims that the loss of Kennedy’s seat to a Republican says that the country is upset with Obama, and all of a sudden the country is stressed about the 2010 midterm elections. The media decries the state of Toyota’s safety record, and now the automaker is facing congressional inquiries. Tiger Woods is hounded, stalked and pressed to such a degree about his infidelity that he is forced into seclusion to gain any sense of peace for himself and his family. This last story is particularly egregious because it created collateral damage. Tiger Woods is a celebrity, but his family is not, and yet they must also bear the weight of the unending scrutiny and judgment that is commonplace now under our histrionic media’s system of story coverage.

I absolutely support the concept of the free press. I accept that, in a capitalist society, news is a commodity that must be made appealing if it is to sell. However, I challenge the stand that any methods to make a story appealing are acceptable, and I reject sensationalism as an appropriate method for making news valuable. I have much the same issue with advertising, too. I know many people were incensed about the ads that ran during the Super Bowl, and so did I, but for different reasons. Some were sexist, some promoted violence, some were political, but my problem with them is not with their content. I’ve got no interest in passing moral judgments, but I very much take exception to the motivation behind running them. National advertising has become a game of sensationalism; the product that can advertise in a way that amazes us, pushes the limits of taste in just the right way or creates drama will sell better. Sex is used in advertisements for precisely this reason. It is considered fair to do this because the rules don’t specifically say they can’t, and because all is fair when trying to make a dollar.

It is my belief that media, that corporations, that all entities carry the same responsibility that individuals do. I believe that all of us bear a duty to think about the effect of our words, and to act in a way that promotes harmony, not discord, encouragement, not distress, empowerment, not depression. Neither the first amendment nor economic survival supplant this obligation in my mind and all of us need to be held accountable for living up to it.

There. I’ve said my piece. I'll just get off my soapbox and brush the car off.


Mrs. Chili said...

Yeah, we didn't even get a measurable amount, but the schools were all abuzz about missing a day and watch the news and keep an eye on the websites. What. Ever.

the passionate hairdresser said...

What little we received is now pretty much gone.

Never apologize for standing on your own personal soap box...EVER.