I'll take this - warts and all - any day.
Last week’s blog took a look at some of what’s going on with the media these days. Most of it is predictable; some good and some bad. As somebody who majored in journalism and served as editor of my college paper - The Daily Tar Heel - I have long been an observer of media coverage.
I have a daily subscription to the conservative Wall Street Journal, which may be the best paper in the country. I get it every day but Sunday - when I have the liberal The New York Times delivered for a bit of balance. For easy reading, I receive USA Today, although it is frequently USA Yesterday due to delivery issues. I’m a happy reader of the weekly Chagrin Valley Times that is a model for what community journalism should be. All that and I watch a lot of TV news, especially NBC Nightly News and CNN. Add to that subscriptions to Business Week, Fortune, Inc and Crain’s. Did I forget to mention Golf Digest? Emphatically what I do not do is depend on social media for my news.
I know a lot of people who would be happy to criticize what I read and watch. Have at it. That’s what makes America great.
Keeping in mind that the media depend on advertising revenue to stay alive, here are a couple of DY observations about today’s media climate.
The media beats issues into the ground. Example: Simone Biles and her 2020 (ok... 2021) Olympics journey. Too many close-ups of her sad expressions. Too many “experts” commenting and frequently speculating on what was wrong with her. And, in many respects, violation of her right to at least some privacy for a medical condition. Same goes for tennis star Naomi Osaka.
Here’s a case of poorly focused coverage. Example: The collapse of the Florida apartment building. Time-after-time we were treated to interviews with grieving family members of the missing. Some of that is necessary, but that coverage was way overboard. The real focus needs to be on what happened, why it happened and how it can be prevented in the future. That’s when journalism is at its best. There was some of that, but not enough.
What about scaring viewers? Example: Will tonight be the blizzard of the century? Get up early - it’s going to be a brutal commute in the morning. Then what happens? It snows less than an inch, the salt trucks are out and the roads are clear. Give us the facts, weather people. Skip the theatrics.
I hope these are helpful examples. At the end of the day, media coverage is driven by ratings, which directly impact the advertising revenue I referenced earlier. The unfortunate result is that a lot of what is called news is really sensationalism to lure eyeballs or clicks.
Has it occurred to you that readers and viewers bear some responsibility for that? The media may frequently be selling a bad product, but consumers like you and I are buying it. As long as we do, they’ll sell it. Perhaps we are getting what we deserve.
As a nation, we are indeed suffering from media fatigue these days, drowning in COVID-related “news”, among other things. But lest we forget, an imperfect free media - on its worst day - always beats living in a nation where censorship is practiced even on its best day.
DY: In Just a Few Words is a blog that comes out when something needs to be said or every Tuesday - whichever comes first. Davis Young is a communications professional who adds 50+ years of experience and perspective to issues of the day. His emphasis in DY: In Just a Few Words will be humor (a touch of sarcasm here, a pinch of facetiousness there...). Once in a while, he will touch on something a bit more serious - but hopefully not too deep or depressing.
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