“That’s not even really news…” -Tom Tucker

24 10 2007

I read a post this past week on Seth Godin’s Blog about cumulative advantage.  To grossly summarize it, it’s basically the idea that people tend to pick what’s most popular instead of the best product.  He cites a great Times article if you want to read more about it.  I’m really not too interested in the marketing aspect of this theory though.

The post got me thinking more about how the concept of cumulative advantage carries over into mainstream society and mass media. I was on cnn.com the other day and one of their headline articles was about JK Rowlings announcement that Albus Dumpledore was gay.  What bothered me about this was that it made no other mention in the article about the things Rowling said about the other characters lives.  In their opinion, this was the only news worthy story.

Later on, in Newsweek I read an article by Lisa Miller about the CEO of Focus on the Family Jim Daly.  It’s a decent article, showing the growing movement in evangelical society to understand that you can love others, as the bible calls for us to do, without agreeing with their decisions and lifestyle.  This article (surprisingly) focuses on homosexuality.

My problem with this article comes from some inside information I have (aka my girlfriend at the Focus Institute) that Miller got the interview by telling Daly that she wanted to discuss his book, but when she got their basically said “So how bout them gays,” and went on from there.  Besides the amazingly unprofessional tactic that Miller used to be able to talk to Daly, why is it impossible to read an article about a Christian leader without talking about homosexuality.  Yes, as a christian I have my beliefs, but in the big scheme of what it means to be a christian, my stance on homosexuality is a minuscule portion.

To bring the point I’m trying to make full circle, cumulative advantage is an effective and useful marketing strategy, but the media has gotten their hands on this powerful tactic and have abused it beyond belief.  Homosexuality is a popular issue, but that DOES NOT mean it’s the big story or the most news worthy issue.

This happens all the time, a few months ago when the kid at U of Florida got tasered, we began seeing stories left and right about taserings.  They even showed (again on cnn.com) some drunk chick from my home town get arrested.  Meanwhile in Athens, Ohio a professor was stabbed 40 some times, by his son no less, and this was barely covered!

It’s a vicious circle because stories like the one’s I cited get a lot of bang for their buck in the media (which is a problem itself).  However, it’s insulting that as a part of the American society, we’re thought to only be able to handle these socially popular issues.  Give us some credit!  I have faith that if we were presented with what is most relevant, we would tune in and care about what’s really truly going on in the world.

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2 responses

24 10 2007
Allison

I agree that there is way too much focus on small issues – although they are big issues to some. I have no doubt that many in the gay community will be glad that Miller did what she did and that Daly came across with so much compassion. In the long run, Miller most likely did Daly a good turn and I wonder if he would have agreed to the interview if she had been more forthcoming.

It’s easy to say, and I’ve said this myself, that people don’t want to think about the big issues so they focus on the other stuff (Britney, Paris, Dumbledore). They just aren’t thinking people and don’t care about what’s going on in this world. But I wonder if another issue is the fact that people are so tired of all the horrors of this world and, in particular, the war. Sometimes it’s just too much and people need a break. Even thinking people need to look at some mindless drivel sometimes.

So keep on asking the questions and maybe, someday, someone will come up with the answer for it all and write a book and we’ll all ignore it.

24 10 2007
Aaron

GREAT POINT. My only issue with the Daly interview is that from a responsible journalists stand point, it shouldn’t matter whether or not he would have given the interview (and from what I’ve read about him, he would), the fact is how can you demand that your subject is honest when your not honest up front?

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