Why does our media assume we are so helpless?
Society expects journalists to perform several important functions: control of government power, community watchdog, reliable source of basic information. But there is one role that we really don’t need in the information industry: that of a life coach.
And yet, as Americans emerge from the pandemic and lead more normal lives, journalists, editors, and producers flood the media universe with an abundant stream of sweet stories filled with mundane advice on everything, the way of hug again the safest way to get back into the habit of talkative behavior.
In an era of economic challenges for the information industry, this doesn’t seem like the smartest use of limited resources.
It’s no secret that television and print media have always produced their fair share of practical tips and stories. But these segments regularly focus on how-to, step-by-step guides on topics like parenting or home repair.
The latter genre is something very different – “practical” is not the first word that comes to mind. “Blur”, “generic” and “unfocused” better describe the phenomenon. A lot of these are things best left for daytime talk shows, not official news organizations.
Readers and viewers of respected national media, for example, have recently come across articles telling them how to relearn the art of trivialities. The insightful advice offered included this innovative tip for starting a conversation: Don’t focus “mostly on the negative.” What about couples who came close during confinement but now needs to return to normal life and separation? Well, they should “connect on a deeper level” by communicating “openly”.
As we move back into society, we can now feel overwhelmed by too many friends. The invigorating response offered by some national news outlets: reexamine your “Friendship landscape” and let go of the unworthy by asking yourself, “Who have I missed and who have I missed?” “
And if you’re worried that you won’t be able to handle real life at all, journalists suggest learning the art of “Temporal distancing”. That is, sit there and imagine your world in, say, a year – when you are happy and adjusted. It will make you feel better.
At last count, America is home to some 20,000 “life coaches”, would have the fastest growing occupation, just behind information technology jobs. These people collectively earn $ 2 billion a year, as part of an overall national “self-help” industry of $ 11 billion.
This means that there are already plenty of people in our society with obscure credentials willing to take our money in return for something less than psychological advice but more than, apparently, asking your mother for advice. There doesn’t seem to be a huge void for journalists to fill with endless columns of columns and video segments.
Beyond even the need for it all in national newsrooms, these articles and segments also seem to reveal something unpleasant and nagging: how the best producers and editors really rate their viewers and readers.
These journalists might well assume that their news consumers are intelligent, inquisitive people interested in complex topics like international affairs and domestic tranquility. But this recent deluge of pseudo-news tells a different story. It’s as if media connoisseurs view the vast majority of their consumers as exceedingly fragile and disoriented, a lost tribe that must be saved with a Hallmark-card version of therapeutic reporting.
Obviously, these are not common sense readers and audiences who can be trusted to assimilate the facts and draw conclusions. Rather, they are people who can only function if they are repeatedly assured by reliable sources of information that, well, “hugs do a great job.” to recover. “
Perhaps, as the pandemic continues to fade, this weird and somewhat embarrassing news trend will fade with it. Life, and the people who live it, will go on as always – one way or another, humans will solve very personal conflicts and problems on their own or with the close circle around them.
I can not wait.
In the meantime, I will follow the deep and innovative advice offered by a typically indispensable person. item: “This too should pass.”
Joe Ferullo is an award-winning media executive, producer and reporter and former executive vice president of programming for CBS Television Distribution. He was news director for NBC, writer-producer for “Dateline NBC” and worked for ABC News. Follow him on twitter @ ironworker1.