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That’s Not News, That’s Marketing, and it Sucks!

February 27th, 2010 · 1 Comment

The breathless news anchor reports that Tsunami warnings are out for Hawaii following the devastating 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile.  For those of us who have been in larger earthquake (I lived in San Jose in 1989 during the Loma Prieta earthquake a.k.a. the World Series Quake) they are a truly frightening and sobering event.  The fear and terror felt by those affected is real and reinforced with every aftershock.

However, this morning CNN, MSNBC and Fox News were all reporting the Tsunami danger to Hawaii.  I’m not an expert but it would seem to reason that California, Mexico, the entire South Pacific, New Zealand and few other places are closer and in more immediate danger from that Tsunami than Hawaii.  I’m not trying to say that Hawaii wasn’t in danger, but rather that people who are not trying to sensationalize this event for ratings points would stop to think, isn’t there a better way for us to understand the true danger here? 

Then the respected Washington Post runs their sensationalist headline:

Tsunami strikes Hawaii, extent of damage unknown WashingtonPost.com 2/27/10

It turns out that Ensenada, Mexico, Santa Barbara, CA, Auckland, New Zealand, and American Samoa all had earlier arrival times for the Tsunami waves than Hawaii.  The source for this information, a graphic linked to in the same WaPo article.  (BTW WaPo, I believe that San Diego and Los Angeles are south of Santa Barbara so they would have been devastated first…) 

Why did they pick Hawaii for their sensationalist target?  It’s exotic and picturesque and part of the US.  It’s a great place for us to think of as being destroyed, yet it’s remote enough to not be close to home.  Oh- and by the way, it was early morning there and it’s not likely for them to have caused a panic.

That’s the real reason they choose Hawaii.  It’s 3AM there so we can speculate about how Hilo will be erased from the face of the earth and we won’t cause panic in the streets.  If they had speculated about San Diego, and LA, there would be panic in the streets and chaos. It would be irresponsible of them to do so and cause people unnecessary harm.  They could  and would be sued, and possibly lose their license.  However, with everyone in Hawaii asleep there is no panic, so no harm done. (That would be an interesting test law suit)

The problem is sensationalizing events for ratings points.  The same thing happens when a storm is brewing in your neighborhood.  The 7PM teaser for the 11 o’clock news reports breathlessly on the eminent danger you face, you must watch the 11 o’clock news to learn if you will die in the deluge to follow.

I’m not a journalist, I’m a marketer.  And I don’t know the ethical rules in journalism.  But I do recognize marketing when I see it.  And this the worst kind of marketing. If was in an email everyone would hit the SPAM button.  It is much ado about nothing.

The problem is that when journalists become marketers they can’t be trusted any longer as journalists.  This sensationalism will only lead to the further erosion of the field of journalism and hasten the demise of the print and video news organizations.  So not only are they failing to adapt to the changes in technology and consumption habits of their audience, they are accelerating their own demise with empty promises and crying wolf too many times.

Oh, the Tsunami that hit Hilo? 1 foot.  And LA wasn’t destroyed either.

Give me 1 Good Reason why today’s journalist/marketers deserve to stay in business.

Posted via email from ckieff’s posterous

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Tags: Reasons For Net Marketing · Truthful Tuesday

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 John Rosen // Feb 28, 2010 at 10:35 am

    I agree completely. And, I think the 24-hour news channes were even more, er, oppportunistic. Yesterday, I Tweeted my friends, asking whether they agreed with me that it was really weird to be watching an ongoing death watch waitng for the tsunami to hit Hawaii.

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