A new book discusses our focus on negative news – and how negativity in all aspects of our life is not where we need to be. I’m buying the book.
Newsweek did it again. They just keep making things up. I grew up on Newsweek and this surely isn’t the Newsweek of yesteryear. Its turned into quite a joke – more like Newsweak.
Get a good laugh at this C-130 with a destroyed left wing and left engines – and the headline saying “no major damage”. Uh huh.
Tom Brokaw, former NBC TV news anchor, now retired, notes that today’s media (and culture) has devolved to 24 x 7 rage, or what I call, “The culture of perpetual outrage”. He has several very good observations and comments. Social media frequently takes its cues from media. Thus, the rage and bitterness that has become common in the media gets amplified by sharing and discussion – or may be just shouting – on social media.
The graphic shows the equivalent square miles to the acreage burned in Australian wildfires. Its a huge mess of fires but this provides tremendous context to the scope. ABC (US) News ran a graphic implying that about one third of Australia was on fire 🙂 The accurate portrayal, in this Google Map, was created by the San Francisco Chronicle.
Update January 10, 2020: 1.1% of Australia’s land mass has burned, 98.9% has not yet burned. This compares to 15% of Australia’s total land mass burning in the summer of 1974-1975.
CNN and many media outlets falsely reported on a confrontation that occurred in Washington DC in January 2019. The media had the story backwards, reversed from what actually occurred, with many media outlets falsely accusing students of racism. Today, CNN has settled the lawsuit filed against them. Several related lawsuits remain pending.
The news headline says Oregon ranks high in natural disasters, which the text explains, is wildfires in the State.
This claim comes from a press release from a small, little known online Internet insurance sales web site. This type of press release is put out in hopes of garnering free publicity – and it certainly worked for them – in large part because the media, like all of us, is more likely to succumb to a fear-based scary headline.
However, if we practice factfulness and look at the long term trend in Oregon fires we see that a small rise at the right end of the chart has been translated into a crisis and a catastrophe. The chart above is the official chart from the Oregon government’s Fire Statistics page, and shows actual acreage burned and total fires burned in Oregon since 1911.
The slight increase at the extreme right edge is the basis for the scary headline. By leaving out all historical context and by focusing on large percentile increase in a tiny number at the right edge of the chart, the media creates unwarranted fear and hysteria in viewers.
A month ago, the media gave us scary stories that “Fears of an economic recession could derail the holiday shopping season”. Actual sales rose by +3.4% year over year, even with a shopping season that was six days shorter than the prior year. Unfortunately, mindless speculative “news” is used to fill up air time and web page time with something new.
The media’s focus on scary, fear-based propaganda messaging – and avoidance of discussing workable solutions that are already underway – leads to intense negativity and anxiety. The result has been a majority of young people believing humanity may be extinct in ten years, even though there is zero evidence to support such nonsense. We are literally scaring people to death via false and inappropriate propaganda messaging. Some journalists are looking to “solutions journalism” moving away from the whining negativity of current news reports that focus on problems and seldom examine workable solutions,. This new approach offers hope and a positive way forward.
And as noted in the linked column, almost no one watches cable TV news: viewership is just 1% to 2% of the population. But its focus is on emotional click-bait creating shareable content for social media – and the perpetually outraged culture. Ultimately, cable TV news, say studies, leave you dumber and misinformed.