Contrary to what you might expect, this isn’t a post about the beef supply chain, or the purity of beef that you source, but a post about modern media. I’m borrowing Wendy’s classic catch-phrase because, well, it’s what we should be asking anytime we watch the news or read an article that, simply put, does nothing more than summarize press releases and coverage from other sources.
Why is the doctor ranting about this now? Well, the day he’s writing this is just a little over a year since the inauguration of Donald Trump, whom, according to The Washing Post, made 2,140 false or misleading claims in his first year. But this isn’t what set the doctor off.
It’s the behaviour of media in the last year, and their repeated spreading of fake news, which is real, and, typically, not the fake news that the politically leaning media enterprises are rallying against (which each have their own set of alternative facts). And how this all popped to the forefront of his mind as he was scrolling through his archives and stumbled upon this classic post from January 2011 on why you have to Think!.
In this classic post, where he covered an awesome article by Atlantic Business of the same name, he started off by quoting the author who worries [that] we seem to have forgotten or dismissed the value of careful and considered thought because common sense seems to be in very short supply. And pondering on this, and the author’s statement that we always want an instant response or immediate gratification, he noted how it was becoming common for a journalist, or blogger, [who] doesn’t cover a “breaking” story the minute it happens, to feel that he’ll miss the boat.
And this, as the doctor noted, is a problem. We’ve gone from a world where a company would make a big announcement in a press conference and it would be a headline the next day — after the journalist had time to verify the statement, think about the impact, talk to experts, verify statements with references and customers, and so on — to a world where the press release goes up and 5 minutes later there are two dozen online sites offering “deep and complete coverage”. How “deep and complete” can a story be if someone spent 5 minutes of research on a press release and a couple of websites? The answer is NOT VERY.
But if we were still in that world, that would be almost acceptable. Today, when a company releases a press release about it’s new product, the journalists talk about whether the color will match your latest outfit based on what’s in style if it’s a phone or accessory. An executive makes a statement about the importance of sustainability and how the government should create regulations and laws, and instead they get unrelated backlash about how the additional cost will result in job loss because companies will just move to a locale where there are no regulations. The Prime Minister of Canada goes to the World Economic Form to discuss important global trade issues and all the journalists care about is what pair of socks he wore.
Who the F*ck cares?
Reporting is supposed to be about facts, issues, and deep information we can’t dig up on our own or deep thought and analysis. It’s supposed to be about the beef, not the bun, the sesame seeds, or the fancy box it came in.
And the worst thing is that our willingness to accept this as news is leading to our willingness to accept press releases as product tech sheets and scientific fact without any analysis whatsoever. At a time when we need to Think! the most, we are now, often, thinking the least when we should be echoing Dave Thomas and asking Where’s the Beef?!