Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Balloon Boy & An Out of Control Media

While out this earlier this afternoon with my son, I checked my Twitter account on my phone and saw several "tweets" about some kid in an air balloon. By the time I got home a couple hours later, the six-year-old boy was found safe and sound as it was learned he was never in the runaway balloon.

But this "news" story doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon. Although questions have arisen about whether this whole fiasco was planned by attention-seeking parents, this case just goes to show how the media reports events these days and how a fascinated public eats it up.

Oddly, Seth Godin just wrote earlier this morning about the emotional manner in which news gets reported in a post entitled "The Problem With Cable News Thinking." Godin's thoughts probably deal more with political commentary but I think the twelve traits he identifies apply here as being all too common in the media:
1. Focus on the urgent instead of the important.
2. Vivid emotions and the visuals that go with them as a selector for what's important.
3. Emphasis on noise over thoughtful analysis.
4. Unwillingness to reverse course and change one's mind.
5. Xenophobic and jingoistic reactions (fear of outsiders).
6. Defense of the status quo encouraged by an audience self-selected to be uniform.
7. Things become important merely because others have decided they are important.
8. Top down messaging encourages an echo chamber (agree with this edict or change the channel).
9. Ill-informed about history and this particular issue.
10. Confusing opinion with the truth.
11. Revising facts to fit a point of view.
12. Unwillingness to review past mistakes in light of history and use those to do better next time.
Even though there is a lot of good things that can be offered through modern media, there seems to be an insatiable desire for "breaking news" that might not really be news. I guess if we quit watching and reading, it would stop getting put out there. But, of course, that's a big "if."

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