Advertising disasters. How sensationalism in the news-media only makes it worse.
October 10, 2008
Everyone is talking about the economy. Or should I say shrieking? Fueled by hysterical reportage, the topic has become another 9/11. While the credit crisis is real, I think the media has taken it too far. Cable news is downright ghoulish about it. “How low will it go?” bellows the reporter on CNN. Words like “disaster” and “catastrophe” are being tossed around so often they are losing all meaning.
It reminds me of the hurricane coverage on the Weather Channel. A storm brews in the tropics and the media responds accordingly. Reporters put on their raincoats. Experts materialize. We are captivated by the swirling tempest, hypnotized by its evil eye. The journalists and experts speak gravely of dire consequences but beneath the warnings, we can’t help but detect a sense of ghoulish anticipation. Dare I suggest it’s as if the experts and reporters are secretly hoping for the worst. Why? Because the nastier the storm the more people will watch it. We personify the hurricane: Hugo, Katrina. It’s personal now. The drama is real!
Is it not eerily similar to what we are witnessing right now, regarding the markets? Expert analysts, sleeves rolled up, are screaming about “bottoms” and “bailouts.” The women of CNN are genuinely concerned. I heard one today liken the crashing markets to “a car racing down a huge hill without any brakes.” An apt metaphor, I suppose. But did the hill have to be “huge?” And is the car really “racing?” Like kids at an auto race, are these journalists watching the markets, hoping for a crash?
In the face of epic bad news the media becomes more like an ad agency. The news is written as copy now, full of melodrama and pathos. They are selling these storms and crashing markets, making volcanoes out of mountains. The drama is real!
And so it is. But is the hyperbolic coverage becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy? My financial advisor said she wished they’d just be quiet, that enough was enough. We get it, already. She feared a “War of the Worlds” effect. That the American people were beginning to fear the worst, and that the worst was yet to come. And since no one (the experts, the Presidential candidates, Oprah) knows what to do, panic ensues. Panic begets chaos. The markets tumble further. The sky falls.