Friday, July 12, 2013

Details Matter More Than The Side You Pick

I often hear how many people complain about the media being “too liberal” and certain media outlets playing up to conservatives. Indeed, certain media outlets pander to one side of the political spectrum or the other.

But when it comes to the role of media, the question should not be asked as to what side the media should be playing up to, but whether or not the media is doing as thorough a job as possible in getting details to people, rather than just picking a spot on the political spectrum.

Let’s try an example: Imagine a world in which artists were only told to use black and white for their creations, but they were free to mix the two to get different shades of gray. Certainly there are artists who could put together some nice works, but if this all artists had to work with, the works would all start to look the same. What makes art so appealing to people is that there are a variety of colors to work with and a variety of mediums an artist can use, allowing for the maximum amount of works to share with people and appeal to the widest audience possible.

When it comes to covering a particular issue, it’s important for members of the media to remember that there are a lot of details that go into it. Picking one detail and taking a side might result in a good editorial but, over time, it all starts to look the same. More importantly, by not getting further into the details, a media outlet is not going to be able to attract the widest audience possible. Instead, the audience becomes too narrow, driving too many potential audience members away.

So what makes the 24/7 news networks just simply pick an audience to attract or so many newspapers start to look the same? The answer comes in the fact that so much of the media has become corporatized.

Corporations are big on efficiency — which is a blessing and a curse. Efficiency can be a good thing because it makes it easier for the corporation to manage its costs and production. But if a corporation focuses too much on efficiency, its product just looks the same and can drive some people away, especially if people find the product to be of poor quality.

When it comes to the media, it’s more efficient for a corporation to give directives to the outlet to keep the issues summed up to a “one side or the other” concept or just crank out a product that tries to do a lot with little. The problem with either approach is you don’t get the best possible product to the audience and you are glossing over far too many details that could really put things into perspective, just as an artist can paint the best possible picture by having access to as many colors and mediums as possible.

I’ll stick with a sports example: When it comes to football, the general approach taken is to pit one team against the other, bring up some big plays either team has made, say a few words about the superstars, then pick a winner. This often results in a lot of details getting glossed over, such as which team has executed its game plan well, small details that had a bigger impact than a single big play and various role players who may not be superstars but are doing more to help a team win than people may realize. The end result is football becomes all about “big plays” and “superstars” making the difference rather than looking at the team concept and how everything comes together, thus telling the complete story about why a particular team won or lost.

And the sports example I cited has made its way over into regular news coverage, in which everything becomes about “pick a side” rather than digging deeper into the details to determine what the issue is really all about.

There are quite a few problems that many in the corporatized media have, problems which I will go over in detail in future posts.

Mind you, that’s not to say everyone who is part of the “mainstream media” is bad at their jobs. There are individuals who work for the major networks and for the major newspapers who do a good job and who work hard to get important details and thus the most information possible to viewers.

But the quest corporations have to make every product “efficient” has a negative effect on the final product delivered — and the desire to make it fit in a certain spot on the political spectrum means the audience misses out on important details.

And when it comes to the audience, getting the details does more to help than picking a side.

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