I saw a headline last night for a painfully stupid article about a modest and non-anomalous jump in a single market stock price of Weight Watchers following speculation about Oprah running for president. After a full three news cycles dominated by Oprah’s hypothetical presidential run, it seemed that the well of news fodder was running dry. This happens all the time – a media obsession with a particular story – but it was irritating me more than usual because this was a ubiquitous narrative tearing down a successful black woman for having the audacity to make a speech that inspired people to imagine her as a political leader.
It’s hard to criticize the media in such instances. 24 hours / 365 days per year is a lot of space to fill and they are following the lead of their readership. Oprah as president is unsurprisingly a question that everyone had an opinion and, and making sure that every take was represented made the task of filling column inches easier for a few days. It is, however, frustrating when the media seems unable to lead its readership to the stories that matter (or at least to the stories that are actually real stories as opposed to commentary). Because while we distract ourselves with Oprah, the political crisis in Venezuela is heating up, Yemen and surrounding areas is on the verge of the largest famine the world has seen in decades, and Korea is in active negotiations with North Korea.
Even the Time’s Up campaign, and the activist guests of featured actresses couldn’t seem to compete for a headline. It’s discouraging for someone like me who recently volunteered at a Hackathon, trying to find interesting ways of representing data on immigrants and refugees to promote media attention and public engagement. If Emma Watson, Meryl Streep, and Amy Poehler can’t together get the headlines they’re angling for, what hope is there for the rest of us?
And to turn bad to worse, Twitter no longer displays tweets chronologically and rather promotes content on an algorithmic basis, which means that even best efforts to follow diverse people and organizations with diverse interests doesn’t guarantee a diverse media diet. Unfortunately it would seem that if falls to us to be conscious in our media consumption. Like a balanced diet, we are responsible for making sure we don’t consume too many empty calories, particularly not at the expense of the stuff that will keep us alive and, ideally, working at close to full capacity.
Posted in: Progress