the blog Synergy

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Can We Cure Sorry Sensationalism?

One of the many reasons I have become a fan of reading business blogs is that as a whole (there are exceptions to everything, I know) we aspire to a higher standard of truth and transparency in our reporting. To do otherwise is just too costly.

Another reason, connected to this first one, is that the truth, even in its business-suited boringness, is good enough for us. In fact, our truthfulness is newsworthy in itself. Our truth sells us, our business, our products and services without the need to resort to sensationalism. This is not the case in far too many other types of media reporting.

I’ve gone through several changes in the ways I spend my time since being self-employed, one being a purposeful effort to get more involved in community events that I previously did not have time for in corporate life. These include public hearings and townhall meetings where I’ll painfully watch beleaguered community leaders and public officials do their best to truthfully engage with their constituents. I’ve come to know them and their situations well enough to know the difference between when they are open and engaged in the conversations being had, versus being cagey and carefully choosing their words. I’ve seen the same people do both things, and it’s not because of which side of the bed they got up on that morning. It’s because it’s an open meeting as opposed to a closed one, and there’s a reporter in the room.

Sadly, when someone is there from our local newspaper, much communication will simply stop except among the more vocal (and usually more extreme in their thinking) who just do not care anymore, their levels of frustration with something are so high.

I recently had to step into one of these situations as a facilitator, and the outcome, what ended up only partially reported in the local newspaper, truly saddened me. Half-truths and reports of struggles without mention of the victories which need to be celebrated in this case, and should be to help everyone with some much-needed community healing. The result of the session was overwhelmingly positive, but if you only read the newspaper report, you get a completely different view.

Sensationalism sells newspapers, but it is so irresponsible when it proliferates hurt and distrust among people who may rely on it as their primary, or only, source of communication about an issue which concerns them. Information blinders have been erected, and hurtful emotions are so wrongly riled up. Creative synergy, where alternative solutions will happen, has a much longer uphill climb to take.

I don’t know how reporters who knowingly and intentionally engage in this kind of writing can sleep at night.


  • At 1:26 AM, Blogger Felix Gerena said…

    This is a very interesting topic. The normal trend is to tell things in the most positive way as possible. I remember a company, a former customer of mine, that never gave real numbers of their activity to the press. Though their numbers were never false, they just were the expected numbers for the year. But the press never was very strict on this, they published the numbers as if there was a total confidence they would be achieved. I think press have their own goals and that is their guiding priciple.

    If the press you are telling is economic press the problem would be more accute.

  • At 2:43 PM, Blogger Steve Sherlock said…

    Nie writing, Rosa. At a minimum, your Kuleana and Ho'ohanohano are evident in this posting.

    Mahalo, Thank you

  • At 1:04 AM, Blogger Trevor Gay said…

    In my last healthcare job before I became freelance last year I was Head of Communications for a Primary Care Trust here in England. The annual budget of our organisation was 150 millions pounds. I would speak to press reporters every day about issues in the local healthcare services we managed and I always found the reporters to be fair and responsible in their reporting. The key is to have a good open and transparent relationship where trust is built – actually it sounds a bit like life.

    Many of my colleagues had a real ‘downer’ on the press and were convinced the press had an agenda to expose scandals etc. What the press actually wants is to report information that is sound and factual. Of course there are unethical reporters who will let you down but that is true in any profession. In my experience the massive majority of reporters are highly ethical, very professional and always grateful for the experience and factual information that I could provide for their stories. In my entire career not one press reporter ever gave me reason to complain about anything they ever wrote. Maybe I was just lucky but I don't think so. I think it was because there was mutual respect between the reporter and myself. We both knew that each of us had a job to do. The relationship was based on trust and respect.

    I am not saying that reporters always act with that same professionalism but I must speak as I find.


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