Why I Don't Care What Soccermom83 Says on Twitter
I loved the comments of Golden State Warriors basketball coach Steve Kerr on Monday as he laid into the media for the coverage it gives to Big Baller brand guy LaVar Ball, whose son plays for the Los Angeles Lakers. Kerr called the elder Ball the "Kardashian of the NBA", said he had zero credibility and wondered why anything he says gets big media coverage.
It's a good question. I have often wondered why the news media quotes what certain people think, especially those who aren't well known like people who make random comments on social media.
Local media outlets have to take some of the blame too, as comments made on Twitter and Facebook somehow find their way onto the evening news, next to important decisions made at City Hall and the Legislature.
When Traditional Media Quotes Social Media
I’m part amused, part angered and continue to be surprised when I see traditional media, especially television newscasts, waste valuable time reporting on what totally unknown people say on social media.
I’ve sure you’ve seen it too, but maybe haven’t noticed how the game works. You’re watching a local television newscast and the news anchor says something like “Let’s go to Tracy to see what people are saying on social media about the latest controversy involving the Prime Minister.” The camera cuts to Tracy in the studio next to a screen and Tracy says something like “Yeah Jeff people are really upset about what Justin Trudeau said in Ottawa yesterday. Here’s a Tweet from Soccermom 83 who says Trudeau should stop worrying about what his hair looks like and start getting a handle on the economy and put people back to work. But there’s also this one from LiberalJunkie who writes…..”
Sound familiar? I’m sure you’ve seen this type of award-winning news coverage.
I’ve tried to understand why the media thinks anyone should care what people like Soccermom83 or LiberalJunkie think about anything. If the person is well known it’s a different story, but why is any TV time given to the thoughts of nameless people? Well, I guess they’re not nameless, but I’m sure Soccermom83 isn’t her real name.
I understand the media looks for a cross section of comments, but getting them from social media seems like a pretty cheesy thing to do.
Full disclosure now. I’m not totally innocent in putting nameless people on the air. When I was News and Public Affairs Director of 96 K-Lite Radio in Edmonton many years ago, I used to send reporters to do “streeters”. This is what we called “Man on the street interviews”. Obviously we were a little more sexist in those days and not gender natural with the term.
Normally when I assigned reporters to do a streeter about the latest controversy in the news I would usually get a groan or some type of defiance from the reporter who had been ordered to do said streeter on Whyte Avenue. I understood their frustration. Standing on a busy street corner asking passersby if they had a comment on the latest silly move by City Council wasn’t any reporter’s idea of a mouth-watering assignment. Streeters were actually an early form of reading a Tweet from Soccermom83 on television. I just didn't know it at the time.
In defence of my penchant for streeters, I understood that radio was about sound and emotion. Quite often reporters would come back to the newsroom and edit some tape (this was long before the days of digital recording) to provide the best sound bites to use on the news. They often weren’t excited by what people had said in the interviews, but I always used them because I understood they were real thoughts from real people and they sounded great on the air. You can argue that reading Tweets on the air today is the same exercise, but they don’t convey the same emotion and colour of those streeters from a generation or so ago.
Talk Shows With Less Talk
The same can be said about a trend I hear on radio talk shows. Far too often I hear hosts reading texts listeners have sent. They’re ok, but wouldn’t you rather hear the words come from the people sending those texts? Maybe those people are like so many others these days – they’re ok sending the text but don’t want to be on the air saying the same thing. Texting allows people to stay anonymous, because they only need to give their first name. They also allow the host to move through texts much quicker than calls.
I would far rather here the actual calls from listeners. The calls have colour and emotion and evoke feelings. Texts don’t do the same thing.
I’m sure talk show hosts try to strike a balance and read some texts, while also taking calls. My vote would be for more calls and fewer texts.
We Can Read You Know
There’s something else I’ve noticed about television news and sports anchors. When a person, company or sports team has released a prepared statement, the full statement will be placed on the screen for all viewers to see and then the anchor will read it word for word, because apparently most of the audience can’t read a few words on the screen.
I find it annoying. Could the anchor not pause for a few seconds and allow viewers to read the statement? Could the anchor not paraphrase the statement because the text is already on the screen, giving viewers the choice of reading the words or listening to the anchor’s explanation? It’s like watching a public speaker reading all the words on his PowerPoint.
As a former proud member of the media I’m not intending to be critical, just asking if there’s another way of conveying the same information, even if I might agree with what Soccermom83 said on Twitter about the PM.
Hi Grant: Your article captures today's "culture of personality" where everyone is special and everyone's opinion counts. I long for the "old days" when commentary came from credible sources.