News Content – Who's the Boss?

This post really begins at a different blog:  Laurie Ruettiman’s  Punk Rock HR.  On January 15, 2010, on her weekly F@%k It Friday series. she posted a blog called Pat Robertson, Haiti, and The Devil. Her blog contained this video.

This blog and video generated a lively response of comments, including one from me:

Pat Robertson is entitled to his opinion in America, and he is even entitled to express his opinion without unnecessary government intervention, a la the First Amendment. Put a video out on You Tube? Go for it, Pat.

What he is NOT entitled to under our governmental system is to have anyone give a crap about what he says. The fact that he has a video being played over and over again on the news programs (at least I presume it is – I don’t watch television and I first saw this video on this blog) is the fault of news media decision makers who have decided that what Pat Robertson says is important.

I have several videos on YouTube and no one cares. (Well, maybe @BillBoorman does. A little.) I could stand on my street corner all day long and yell the same ridiculous things about Haiti as Pat Robertson, but I doubt that even my local news media would show up.

So I don’t hate Pat Robertson. I hate the CEO of any ersatz news program that has replayed that drivel and called it news, because the decisions of their company is their responsibility, and those decisions are why I even know who Pat Robertson is.

Now Laurie is always generous and thoughtful, responding to all comments on her blog.  This is what she said about my comment:

@JoanGinsberg – yup, you’re exactly right, the media have a huge part to play in people like PR consistently having a soapbox from which to shout stupid, stupid things. However, you’ve also got to put some of the accountability on audiences – PR gets on the news because when he’s on the news, ratings (and revenue) go up. For whatever reason, people listen PR – either because they think he’s a tool and want to hear what kind of tool-like thing he’s going to say next or because they *shudder* agree with him. Either way, he’s on TV because people demand that he be on tv (i.e., implicitly, by watching whenever he’s on), not just because network execs want to force him on us.

After all, TV networks and producers (of news or entertainment, etc.) are not in the business of providing audiences with content, they’re in the business of selling audiences to advertisers. TV shows aren’t their product, you are.

I hope I still have your attention after all of this back story, because what I really want to do right now is discuss Laurie’s reply.

While I don’t dispute the idea that television viewers/consumers are accountable for the content that is created, I maintain that consumers are far less responsible for NEWS content than entertainment content. I will lay ALL of the blame at the feet of consumers when it comes to entertainment, but I’m a lot less sure of audience responsibility when it comes to news content.

Let’s face it, every person in the United States could have called MSNBC on January 2 and said, “Hey, we want you to cover a natural disaster that causes massive destruction and death.  Maybe an earthquake in Haiti.  Within 10 days, please.”  That quake in Haiti, and the resultant news coverage, didn’t happen because audiences asked for it.  No matter how great the consumer demand, and the resultant high viewer percentages to sell to advertisers, the news content has to come first.  Without that content, the news media can’t produce any product.

Al-Qaeda and other extremist terrorist organizations know this all too well.  Their opinions don’t get any airplay from new organizations until they bomb buildings or blow up airplanes.  So they create the content for the TV executives and producers to put on their newscasts. Without that content, the viewers neither know or care about Al-Qaeda’s message.  That content is chosen by the TV and other media executives, and then the audience responds.

Yes, the public, or some degree of it, cares about what Pat Robertson thinks about Haiti, even if it is just to hiss and boo his message.  But the public only cares because – as the children say when they have been caught misbehaving – the other guy ( news organizations) started it.

There was a great movie made while back that satirized this very problem.   “Wag the Dog” is about White House spin doctors hiring a Hollywood director to create a war.  In the movie, news content was CREATED  to control the public demand for certain news.   The movie may have been fiction, but I think it was based, as great satires are, on fact.  That, in my book, is the essence of corporate irresponsibility.

What do you think?  Who should bear the responsibility for inane or irrelevant news content?

Message From the Universe?

One of most respected and influential blogs in the HR/Recruiting world is called Punk Rock HR, written by Laurie Ruettiman.  She has a straightforward style; honest and biting.  She’s a great read; I love her and her stuff.

In her blog this week she wrote:

If you haven’t been able to find a job in two years within your field, the universe is sending you a message. You are no longer part of that field. It’s time to broaden your search. You should have expanded it six months ago, but I don’t want to judge you.

Look for something else. Now.

Shit.  Did I waste all of those hours studying for that difficult Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) exam so I could broaden my search to include . . .what?  I thought I was already making my search broad by moving from “lawyer” to “human resources professional”.  Should I be looking for general office/receptionist positions? How many employers will send me packing if I even TRY to get a less specialized job?  I’ve already been labeled over-qualified.

Up until now, I’ve maintained a fairly upbeat attitude.  Most of the job-seek advisors tell you to, and it’s not hard for me to maintain hope and optimism.  I’m basically a cheerful person, not prone to blaming anyone else for my troubles.

Her words scared me, though, because it’s been 18 months of unemployment for me.  Is it time to quit believing that the right job will show up eventually?

Instead of “Shoot for the moon, you may land among the stars”, should my mantra be “Shoot for Mt. Everest, you may land ragged and bleeding in a deep crevasse”?

af7a_despair_posters_giveup

Friends?  A little help here.  What do you think?