Reporter: "So bigfoot does not live in Provo?"
Professor: "NO, OF COURSE NOT!"
This Just In: Bigfoot Probably Doesn't Live In Provo Utah!
I know you're all shocked. Fox 13 News in Salt Lake did a story on the "bigfoot sighting" of a couple weeks ago. Let's leave the subject of "bigfoot" aside for the moment*, and look at how this story came together.
There's a newscast every night, even several! And they have to broadcast *something* to fill the air, even if there isn't much to talk about, and even if that story is half-baked, the SHOW must go ON!
So... they leave out important details, frame it in simplest terms... and basically invent a narrative.
Here are the salient details Fox didn't include: I never saw a bigfoot, and never claimed to see one. My friend saw *something*, and we hiked up to investigate. We recorded a video of our hike. We found nothing interesting.
We found NOTHING interesting. Especially without commentary from the actual witness, this is a COMPLETE non-story. "Inconclusive" is the word used multiple times. But that's not interesting, and as mentioned before, they have to broadcast something every night. So... somehow I end up credited as a "bigfoot witness".
I've worked in various positions in front of and behind the media for a decade. I've worked at companies that have received extensive press coverage. I've worked at news stations. I've hosted, written, and produced TV shows. I directed a documentary. I've written press releases. I've worked on political campaigns. I've had a fair amount of exposure to this type of machine.
Here is what I've learned: The systems we build have biases built in. Systems like corporations, biased toward whatever increases immediate profit and "shareholder value". Systems like broadcast news, biased toward whatever is easily understood, fits inside two-minutes, and appeals to the widest audience. Systems like social media, biased toward whatever will suck the most time from users to drive advertiser spending.
Generally speaking, the news is not essential, or even enlightening. TV is a medium of entertainment, and if media theorist Marshall McLuhan is to be believed, "the medium is the message".
Another media theorist, Neil Postman, took this a step further. I read his book "Amusing Ourselves To Death" a couple years ago, and though it was published first in 1985, what Postman described was very prescient:
"I do not mean to imply that television news deliberately aims to deprive Americans of a coherent, contextual understanding of their world. I mean to say that when news is packaged as entertainment, that is the inevitable result. And in saying that the television news show entertains but does not inform, I am saying something far more serious than that we are being deprived of authentic information. I am saying we are losing our sense of what it means to be well informed. Ignorance is always correctable. But what shall we do if we take ignorance to be knowledge?”
One more thought from another great thinker, though one less formally credentialed:
"News (like alcohol) is better as a periodic indulgence than a constant compulsion." @TheStoicEmperor on Twitter
Turn off your TVs. Curate a few carefully chosen sources online that prove themselves to be accurate, even if (especially if) they occasionally challenge your views. You'll not only have more peace of mind about the world you live in. You'll actually understand it a great deal more.
*If you want to know what really went down with the "bigfoot hunt", just watch my original video. That's what Fox pulled their footage from, and frankly it's much better than what they put together.