The product they sell is drama.
When I went to business school, we spent an entire 90 minute class on how to read the Wall Street Journal. That’s a rare treat… being taught how to understand and psyche out the media.
With the vast bulk of our news coming online now, it’s worth taking a second to look at the way mainstream media markets drama. You know and I know that they’re doing this, but maybe it’ll strike a chord with someone…
Take a look at a screen shot from the front page of CNN.com today:
I put a green checkbox next to every statement on the page that might be considered ‘true’ but could certainly be considered irrelevant, or at least unimportant compared to the actual ‘news’.
The page would have been more accurate if it had said things like, "Obama gains more than 200,000 votes over Clinton" or "Obama campaign further extends delegate lead, picking up 12 more delegates" or even "Obama pummels Clinton in the bigger state."
That’s not dramatic, though, and as William Randolph Hearst taught us a long time ago, the goal is to sell newspapers, not to report the news.
There isn’t media bias in favor of Hillary (my friend Jeff is the first to point that out). Nor is there media bias in favor of floods. There’s media bias in favor of drama.
Most of us are inclined to believe that government officials, doctors and the media are making an effort to tell us the truth. Actually, just like all marketers, they tell us a story.