Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Why the Media Misrepresent the Real Picture

Perched on the edge of his leather chair, the chief editor of the local newspaper weighs heavy decisions. He's been presented with three articles: the city's favourite sports team won their third game in a row, pothole-ridden Oak Avenue got repaved, and a city policeman was seen getting drunk at a city party. There are only two slots available. Obviously sports always sells. Of the two remaining stories, which one is more likely to sell? It's easy.

Frankly, when it comes time to tell stories, an editor is always likely to choose something more dramatic and more sinister. Take a topical issue like global warming for example. Ten university professors submit their opinions on climate change. One says: "The coastal cities are going to be swamped within 15 years if we don't do something right now." I'll be honest and admit I'd find that more interesting than his colleague who wrote: "Climate change could result in reduced health over the next two hundred years."

So you pick up the newspaper the next morning and read the headline: "City Policeman Drunk at Local Party". You breath in sharply and sigh: "What is this world coming to?" What you didn't know is that the other 254 policemen have had an impeccable record. But when was the newspaper ever going to report that? How would they craft it into an interesting story? What would the headline be? Would the newspaper sell?

Quite simply, you can very easily get a wrong picture of the state of the world by watching a news bulletin or reading a newspaper. Of course we need to stay abreast with current affairs, but we need to keep perspective.

The problem for the ACDP is that we don't have dramatic, sinister stories to hide. People who put their heads down and work hard don't make the news. And this is an intense struggle for us. While we cringe like everyone else at the thought of "selling" ourselves, with the way the media works, it would seem that's the only way to communicate to the average Joe. Even really good deeds get reported less often than scandalous ones. In fact, in South Africa you could do a wonderful job with what you have and never get heard of.

No comments:

DISCLAIMER: This blog serves as a commentary and the views presented are not necessary the official views of the ACDP. For official statements and contact details, visit: