I have heard many cry out in the last few days, “Media! Leave Newtown alone! You’re despicable!” The humane part of me agrees with this cry. But you have to understand something. That media frenzy that everyone decries? It’s all our fault.
“You’re just doing it for ratings!” they shout.
First, while the “just” part is certainly true of some, many journalists see themselves as being on a great quest to make a difference in the world. Through sharing the horrors of war and crime, they hope to impact the rest of us enough to get us to change. Unless they structure their stories in such as way as to get us to read, watch, and listen, though, they won’t get the chance to make that difference.
Second, grant the “just” part for the sake of argument. Grant that the world changers are in the minority. I still reply: “Of course. What do you expect? And if they only do it for the ratings, why do you suppose they keep putting those stories up?”
In other words, if we all watched about people being kind to their neighbors, guess what the media would show in the pursuit of ratings?
You have to understand something. Those of us on the outside assume that in the business model of the media, we are the customers. We are not. The customers of any business are the people who pay the bills. The customers of the media are the advertisers. We are not the customers; we are the product. The stories they print and air and post online are simply the means by which they gather the product. They’re selling eyeballs and ears.
If we don’t want to see stories like that on the air, in the newspapers and magazines, and online, all we have to do is not look at them. When enough of us do that, they will change what they show us. You would do the same thing if you were in that position, because that’s how you would stay in business. That’s how you would get the chance to slip in the stories you think would help save the world. Because if you’ve gone broke, you don’t get a chance to tell anybody anything.
Please be clear: I’m not defending the media. I’m just pointing out where we can actually make a difference.
Now, honestly. What will you turn off tomorrow?