Saturday, March 07, 2009

Should News Enlighten or Dumb Us Down?

A news story last week misreferrenced a 3 diamond-rated hotel as a luxury hotel. When I explained to a journalist friend that luxury is a specific designation and considerably higher rated than a 3 diamond, he said something that has been running across my mind most of today.

He justified misusing the term luxury because he felt it would be perceived as such by his audience because they average around $50,000 income.

Whoa! Maybe I expect too much of news media but I’ve always felt it aspired to inform and enlighten. But how can it enlighten us if news substitutes misperceptions for facts, no matter how common they are held?

I have great respect for the person who said it…and maybe it was a defensive reaction to my observation that luxury sensationalized the story by appealing to class.

Granted news coverage wouldn’t attract viewers, listeners and readers if its terminology is over our heads…but does that mean the news doesn't have a responsibility to correct our misperceptions, rather than reinforce them?

To me there must be a higher purpose to news other than entertainment.

1 comment:

Bill Geist said...

"Whoa! Maybe I expect too much of news media but I’ve always felt it aspired to inform and enlighten."

Ummm, yeah. You expect too much because you're a class act...and expect those around you to be as well.

I was quoted by a reporter in the Quad Cities last week as saying that President Obama was "bad for tourism." The reporter was sitting right in front of me as I discussed the state of the tourism economy with regional stakeholders. So, this wasn't some second hand story.

What I said was, "The President's ill-advised classification of Vegas as an overly extravagent convention destination hurts all of us in the tourism industry." That's a far cry from saying that the President is bad for tourism...but, she wanted to paint me in an unfavorable light. Her "interpretation" of my comments was her easiest path.

I've been misquoted waaaay too many times over the past twenty years to believe it to be coincidence or the immaturity of youthful reporters who don't know any better. Sadly, there is an agenda in almost every case.

And the world seems more like "Atlas Shrugged" every day.

Who is John Galt?