Posts Tagged ‘Media’

Tune in Now for the News That Could Save Your Life

How often does the news use this tactic to get you to watch whatever news program they’re pushing? Even better, how often does the news tell you to tune in at 11 for the news that could save your life? While you’re watching the five o’clock news and they could just tell you then?

Now, I’m no genius marketer, but it sounds to me like one of two things are happening when they do this. One is that they’re holding vital information hostage so you’re forced to tune in and see what you need to do in order to survive. The other is that they’re exaggerating the danger so it seems like they have information you must have in order to survive. Either way, they’re hoping your fear of death or desire to live will keep you glued to the TV to find out what new survival tricks they’re peddling.

Generally speaking, the second alternative, that the news exaggerates the danger, seems more likely to me. If something were truly dangerous and in need of immediate attention, the emergency broadcast system would kick in. That’s what it’s for, real emergency situations. Otherwise, it’s almost always the case there is no imminent danger, and you can read all about whatever you need in the paper or online tomorrow with no real concern. Or check out the relevant news site for clips from the news. It’s not urgent, or they’d tell you now, so they just make it seem urgent so you think you need to tune in, and they can get more viewers.

On a related note, it’s the current crisis du jour that has me irritated by this. Swine flu, H1N1, whatever you want to call it has people panicking because it’s been hugely played up by the media. “It’s spreading like wildfire.” “It could wipe out tens of millions of people if it isn’t stopped.”

As Jon Stewart puts it at 2:37 in this Snoutbreak ’09 clip, “I like a good scare as much as the next guy, but for six mild cases of the flu you’re going to turn four million square miles bright red?” The four million square miles refers to Canada, for those not watching the clip. And while I understand they were just looking at Canada as another region, I think the point still stands.

Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t practice good hygiene to prevent getting sick or anything. I’m just saying there’s a place for precaution and a place for a little bit of perspective. Scientists studying the virus have found it’s most likely less dangerous than the seasonal flu we’re hit with every winter. Of course, that’s not nearly as exciting a news story, so it needs to be sensationalized to the point where everyone starts freaking out. At least then the news networks have viewers.

In short, I’m just ranting a little about what many people already know. Take the news with a grain of salt, and do some research on your own as well. Being cautious is good, but never leaving the house for fear of any number of the bad things that could happen to you is going to really kill your quality of life. So at least make sure it warranted that you board up your house before you go ahead with that plan. Most of the time, it’s usually not worth it. For now, it seems like this is one of those times where it’s best to just get on with life, and perhaps review our hygeine practices. A lot of the normal news outlets have picked up on this and started reporting as such. For those outlets, good job. For those still spreading fear about how we’re all going to die, please, just stop now. And for all news, in the future lets try keeping things in perspective first, then if there is a real danger to report, report it once you know, instead of latching on to any and all wild speculation that comes up.

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