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Media: Stop Scraping Bottom-of-the-Barrel Tweets

Traditional media seems to just now discovered the Internet. For example, recently major news outlets like CNN jumped on racist tweets some feral animals posted after a kid dressed in Mariachi costume sang the national anthem at an NBA playoff game.

Here’s a news flash for all you old newsroom boys: There are trolls on the Internet! OMG!

bottom of an empty wooden barrel

Scrape, scrape, scrape.

People have complained for centuries about the sensationalistic tendencies of news media. The news media say that type of reporting is necessary to sell papers. People say they feel shame looking at such crap but can’t help themselves. Parents want to watch the nightly news to feel aware of what’s happening in the world but must suffer through mountains-out-of-molehill stories to get to any information of worth, and even then the crap is splattered with bloody tales of murder and mayhem that the children shouldn’t see.

The public shapes the media and the media shapes the public. Sure. But it is a never-ending arms race between media publishers to see who can get the most ad dollars.

I’m an ’80’s girl, so I’ve already learned the lesson of how to win an arms race, courtesy of WarGames: “The only winning move is not to play.”

I stopped watching all nightly news and reading daily newspapers in September, 2001. I realized there is no such thing as eye bleach, and images haunt, traumatize, and strike fear. Where there is fear, there is only flight or fight. There is no fix. There is no learning.

Let’s do our best to not scrape (or read) the bottom of the humanity barrel of tweets or Facebook posts. We all are quite aware that people say racist things. It’s news when famous cook-it-in-butter chef Paula Deen admits on YouTube to dropping the N-word. It is NOT news when some unknown country bumpkin drops racial slurs all over the Internet.

Watchdog/awareness sites aside, this sensationalist quoting of a few idiots on Twitter isn’t entertaining and eventually it won’t sell.


photo credit: Flickr user Kelly Cookson

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Otir 25 June 2013, 6:59 am

    Isn’t the media playing on the premise that what is outrageous (and exceptional) is what stirs the strongest emotional reaction in the human brain? Good and positive is “boring” and not “sensational” (contains the word “sensation”, does it not), therefore it is not newsworthy. Because of the media, the world is a truly scary place, thank you!

    • PurpleCar 25 June 2013, 10:00 am

      Hi Otir! Nice to see you!

      Eye-tracking research is a popular method to determine where people’s attention is focused on any particular surface, including screens. In university environments, it’s conducted on college students, who, I’d argue, have not fully reached a formal stage of thinking (but I digress). And marketers who use the tech seem to famously interpret the results wrong, like when Seth Godin said bad design can help a website (wrong!). I don’t find conclusive evidence that people’s eye movements are tied very well with their likes and desires when they are bombarded with news media. Sometimes our reactions are too quick to be judged as conscious. If you are asking me if news media people are trying to communicate with our feral animal selves because that is what we look at and that sells papers, I’d say, yes, probably that is their thought process. But again, like most marketers, they misinterpret the data, and in so doing, quite cynically and evilly overestimate the draw of sensation over thought.