Thursday, 20 March 2014

Why Sensationalizing Serious Issues does [Chicken] Little for the Cause

Image: Planetary Destruction 

“It is always the novice who exaggerates.”

Take a look at the following 3 headlines:
  1. GMOs will unleash global killer 'ecocide' across the planet, warns prominent scientist

  2. Research reveals the deadly dangers of excess calcium

  3. It's not just the sugar that destroys your teeth: Carbonated beverages are all made with acid
Read more: Natural health news

Look, we get it: the world is a noisy place and audiences have ADHD. Every media outlet out there is competing against every other source of distraction: from high-brow artistic documentary to so-called serious mainstream journalism to forthright infotainment.

Then there’s all the noise of the web. Let’s be honest: most of it is just that…noise. Yet many producers of web content will tell you they are far less biased than mainstream media outlets. Really? What that means in their mind is less fettered by editorial oversight and responsibility (FOX News notwithstanding).

Make no mistake: advertising-supported web blogs are no less biased than any other media outlet. Because they have to attract and retain audiences without the benefits of traditional networks, in a world where it is easier for users to click-away even than it is for viewers to change the channel, in many ways they are even more biased.

Web properties tend to gravitate to a certain basket of issues relevant to their target audiences, just like any other media source. And, some might argue, just like most editorial content, web properties tend to champion causes around those issues.

The problem, I find, with how the web—and to some degree mainstream media as well—present stories around issues and causes is getting ridiculous. Forget all sizzle no steak, we’re all just getting whacked in the face by an empty hot fajita pan.

How are we supposed to take seriously the journalistic integrity of new stories when one after the next sound the alarm of some looming apocalyptic scenario?  Calcium? Deadly? Really?

And when you actually read the stories, many are quite boring and straightforward. It was the headline that took hyperbole to new heights (or lows).

I partly blame social media. Facebook, Twitter, etc. The whole goal, it seems, of social media marketing is the precious click-thru, that holy grail of web activities that web properties sell to advertisers and sponsors: eyeballs.

No one is going to click to find out the dangers or health risks of consuming too much calcium…they’d rather watch paint dry. But CALCIUM CAN KILL YOU!? Now there’s a message you haven’t seen in a “Milk: it does a body good” TV ad campaign! Must be something to it! Gotta check it out!

Ridiculous. And sad.

Many of the issues being raised are important. Many of the causes are, indeed, just and worth giving a fair hearing. But a fair hearing demands a fair, measured, honest telling! As the above quotation from C.S. Lewis suggests, it’s no time for amateur hour, but that’s how these media properties come across.

Look, PeapodLife has a blog. We’ve got a non-profit arm called which also has its blog. We know what it’s like attracting and keeping eyeballs. We write about contentious and thought-provoking issues. And we’re not even journalists or a bona fide media outlet.

Still, at PeapodLife we turn to nature as our guide. We follow the example of an ecosystem which—sorry to say, techies—is an infinitely more complex network carrying information human beings cannot begin to process. Yet it is simple, dignified, and at times vividly beautiful. There’s an essential truth to it.

Beautiful. And enlightening.

Maybe we don’t always succeed, but we do our very best to bring nature’s very best to you…in all we do…so you can be at your very best. Anything short of that, we leave to others.

No comments:

Post a Comment