Tag Archives: reporting

The Media Circus and the Bandwagon

The media is a powerful tool (whether internet, print or radio) and how a story or event is portrayed can sway popular opinion, raise hopes or fears. There also seems to be two types of news: there is the news that reports an event that has just happened, and there is investigative reporting, which involves giving backgrounds and both sides (sometimes) into current events. Of course some investigative reporting also takes noncurrent events and makes them current by revealing what has been going on behind the backs of the public.

Reporting is supposed to be unbiased but as we know the range is vast. The best news presents only the facts but that’s rare these days, and even those facts and events are embellished with adjectives and descriptions that can color the story. The worst news reportage is given to hypberbole and innuendo or even outright conjecture and sensationalism.

But media in general, to draw audiences and increase sales, must report current and hot topics, sometimes over and over and over again, ad nauseum. This mindless media bandwagon is like the chatter of an excited child who has noticed a bright balloon. They forget to ask other questions or point out more than the obvious. For whatever reason, the media might latch on to a certain topic and deem it newsworthy, and flog that horse till everyone whether they wnant to or not Here are a few examples.

H1N1, also called Swine Flu. The vaccine is out, the vaccine is out, British Columbians are rolling up their sleeves, health authorities ask the public to be patient, many British Columbians have been waiting. Have they? How does the media know? Have they done surveys or is that just hyperbole? So here we are told over and over again about the vaccine, about the flu, about the number who have been hospitalized or died in BC.

Here is what we aren’t told and which I’ve had to dig out on my own. What’s a pandemic? It’s a case of a particular strain of disease that is infectious and shows up in different regions (global). There are different levels of pandemic. The Spanish flu (a strain of H1N1 coincidentally) of 1918, estimated to have infected a third of the world’s population killed between 50-100 million people and was a stage 5 flu pandemic. It was one of the most deadly flus in the last hundred years.

The WHO says a flu is pandemic when these conditions are met:

  • emergence of a disease new to a population;
  • agents infect humans, causing serious illness; and
  • agents spread easily and sustainably among humans
  • Flus recur often and flu pandemics (AIDS is also considered a pandemic) at least three times a century. The media has been hyping the shots and the spread of the flu but not putting it into context with what a pandemic is or how severe it is. At this point, it’s still not that severe but it has been classed a stage (or level) 6, which indicates spread not virulence. More people die every year from a regular flu than have died yet from this strain. However, what they also don’t say is that because it is of the same type (but not the same) that caused the Spanish flu they are worried that it could be as deadly. Avian flu was more virulent than the current flu but didn’t spread as quickly.

    The media needs to do a better job of presenting facts without increasing fear. By only reporting over and over again about the flu and vaccines makes it sound very deadly. And though it is to some people and there are risk groups, that is no different from the yearly flus that can kill 500,000. So what are the facts in perspective, instead of the facts segregated out for greater effect and emotion?

    Then we have the Olympic bandwagon. Over the past several years we’ve been presented with several perspectives. The cost of the Olympics, how much the province, the city and the federal government were going to put in was mentioned first. As projects and venues were completed, these things were reported of course. The lighting of the torch is now in the news.

    Also in the news is the fact that the city and the province are fighting huge deficits. The provincial government wants to bring in a tax (after the Olympics of course) that will ding everyone into paying more for things that weren’t previously taxed. Jobs are being cut by the city and province. Oh and somehow the Liberal government has prebought enough tickets to Olympic venues to equal a cool million bucks.

    It should be up to the media to now present a picture of what we were told and promised at the beginning and what we’re getting in retrospect. But I think I can figure that out. We were given wishful thinking and lies so that some people would naively believe that the Olympics wouldn’t be over budget and that we wouldn’t be paying higher taxes to cover it. But really, I’m as bad as the media (though I’m not being paid) because I base my beliefs on conjecture and what I can remember. But perhaps we’ll see some good investigative reporting on this before the Olympics begins though it’s more likely to happen after the close of the event.

    And of course, media can be influenced by and even muzzled by politics. And politics plays in anything that a government is involved in.

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    Double-Speak: A Rose by Any Other Name?

    I don’t know when we decided to reword the English language to actually obfuscate what is really being said. Perhaps it’s been done through history. Obviously speeches and what’s written descriptions have definitely given different shades of truth, and as we know, history is written by the winner. The truth of history wavers between downright propaganda and lies, to the cold, hard unembellished facts. That means no adjectives like “horrendous, spectacular, brutal, amazing.” Just reporting what happened.

    In this current world propaganda is more likely to be found than cold, hard truth, and everything in between is where most “truth” lies.

    Once upon a time there were housewives. Now they’re domestic engineers but the term is dissolving back into housewife or the more popular stay-at-home mom (or dad). There used to be stewardesses, but now they’re airline attendants, which is more appropriate because there are men and women, though stewards for all would work fine. There used to be mailmen but now there are letter carriers. Changing terms for gender equality in the workplace is one thing, but then there is the world of politics and sensationalism.

    The one that always drove me crazy, and still does, is collateral damage. So, what, it makes it better if we say that people weren’t blown to smithereens in a bombing but there was collateral damage from the bombing? Puhleese, it’s still dead people. Who cares about the buildings. We care about people and it could easily be reported as people killed and a building destroyed. And while we’re mentioning bombs, it’s now an improvised explosive device. Did homemade bomb no longer cover the fact that some are made in the field? Perhaps we should call them field improvised explosive devises, or we could just say bomb. Oh and there is also the incendiary roadside device.

    Who thought of these things? Is there a think tank being paid comfy salaries to come up with “better” words for roadside bomb and land mine? More words, more syllables, is somehow better. Someone out there must think these terms are more accurate, or maybe they’re just more all-encompassing, therefore watering down the image of what really is happening.

    It seems the areas where words take on longer, more sophisticated versions of themselves, is especially in the world of violence. War, bombing, terrorism, murder, rape. Oh yeah, rape. A person no longer rapes someone. They now sexually abuse them. Sexual abuse covers a larger range of issues, from butt pinching and fondling to brutal rape. Wait a minute. Brutal rape? Is any rape not brutal? Nope, but the media might say brutal rape. Maybe that’s why they went to “sexual abuse” as the term; to cut down on the colorful adjectives. But sorry to say, rape is rape, no matter how you word it.

    I can’t help but see this double speak as some sort of attempt to be a polite society or to cover up the facts and keep people dumbed down. I’ve always been interested in language and etymology. I’m sure there are many more examples out there and maybe this is part of the era of political correctness but I fail to see what makes a longer description as more accurate. Sometimes a spade is just a spade.

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