Subtlety not required

28 10 2009

Category: Media

The journalism school I went to had a newsroom in Chicago in the same building as the local TV news, the Playboy organisation, and a supermarket. I was in the supermarket once when a news crew loomed into view trying to get reactions about something. I saw an opportunity to try an experiment; I thought that I could virtually guarantee myself a place on the news…

News needs controversy. Everyone being satisfied is not news. Lots of people being mildly dissatisfied is not news. Quite a few people being quite dissatisfied is still not news. A few people being apoplectic – now that’s news.

I knew to get on TV all I had to do was have a strong opinion, forcefully presented. So when they asked me what I thought about the salt level in peanuts or whatever it was, it was something that really really mattered to me.

The best thing is to decide which of two opposing views is going to be more unpopular and go with that. It’s easy for them to find people who are obviously annoyed about obvious things; less easy to find coherent and presentable people making the case for the less popular argument. But not a nuanced case; bold, stark, black and white, binary. If they ask about the level of salt in peanuts, you’re annoyed there isn’t more salt – and you have a good reason (well as long as it sounds coherent…)

Next day my classmates were talking about how they had seen me on TV the night before. And I was a little more cynical about the trade I was about to enter.



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