Who most influences your behavior and opinions?
Your parents? Your siblings? Your pastor?
Wrong on all three counts. And wrong on anything else you might think is the answer.
It’s the news media. The media has a power so strong they travel on the same plane as the President. It shapes much of public perception, and with smart phones, blogs and social media, nearly anyone can become an instrument for and with the media. You might not agree, but Donald Sterling does. And so do plenty of others.
Any PR firm will tell you that when utilized correctly, the power of the media can be a most valuable ally. When handled carelessly, it can be dangerous and harmful to one’s image. But just because the new media is all-powerful, doesn’t mean it’s all-perfect.
In its most basic form, the media’s job is to report the news. However, more and more we witness the media injecting opinions into print stories, offering comments after reading the TV news script, and personal view sound bites that act as fillers in-between radio commercials. The Internet is responsible for much of this, where there is no time or page limit, allowing anyone to ramble on with whatever they want for as long as they want. There used to be separate news columns and opinion columns, but now you can hardly tell which is which.
The lines have been blurred. The gray area is grayer. The muck is muckier.
And now, what once was a factual reporting of events, has become a writing free-for-all where reporters can say and do whatever they want in the name of journalistic sovereignty.
This article, in yesterday’s USA Today, was tarnished early on through the irresponsible use of “Mr. Mom” in the first paragraph. What’s more, the story could have been accompanied by a photo of a dad caring for children, or working in the home. Instead, the newspaper chose to use a photo of Michael Keaton from the film “Mr. Mom,” where he’s drying a child’s bottom on a public bathroom’s automatic hand dryer.
Don’t get me wrong, I certainly find the image humorous. But it had little to do with the story, other than reinforce the unfitting perception that dads are bumbling idiots when it comes to raising their children. (And the least USA Today could have done was get the year of the movie right – it was 1983, not 1883.)
All of this is unfortunate, because otherwise, the story was well done and interesting. Nevertheless, “Mr. Mom” is now three decades old, and the connotation falsely assumes that societal norms never change, leaving the reader lost at best, and offended at worst with this poor choice of association.
The news media wouldn’t be so powerful if we would only consume it, not overindulge on it.