Today the world is full of information being broadcasted and distributed. In the early days of 3 television channels and the 6 o’clock news, we had a very measured dose of reporting and information and a clear understanding of what was news and what wasn’t. With the onset of 24-hour news programming and infinite venues for distribution, the average consumer of information can’t discern fact from fiction. On top of the massive push of information and communications we have the escalation of profiteering that drives EVERYTHING we do in America, and with the onset of mobile phones, the internet and social media I would imagine the rest of the world isn’t far behind.
Our founding fathers drafted our doctrine with the presupposition that our activities as Americans would be based on basic ethical and moral standards. The Declaration of Independence states, “…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” If anything changes in this statement, a likely change could also impact the outcome. As current events can attest, many facets of this statement are at issue. Not from a factual point, because there is no denying this has been written and ratified by our forefathers. The issue today is that we have separated ourselves from “the creator”, we have values that have changed over time, and we created so many laws we probably can’t read through them all in a lifetime. Capitalism (the pursuit of happiness through free enterprise) has been bastardized by the human need for survival, and greed.
Influence and interference in our market economy from forces looking to enhance their position by tilting the scales have fundamentally changed the playing field and marketplace. We cannot have a true market-based economy when the influence and interference are legally capable of market intervention through loopholes, access and preference. The current state of our market system has changed the equitable nature of a free-market economy and creates favorable conditions for those with power and access. This intervention skews the market and creates unjust winners and losers in a country known for freedom and opportunity. This needs to change.
For the record, I am a husband, father, neighbor and veteran who has been a small business owner for nearly 20 years. I am a creative strategist that specializes in re-branding and brand management. I have worked with clients such as Toyota, Wells Fargo, Verizon/CWA and Aker Solutions and have traveled to almost every state in America and to nearly 30 countries around the globe. I am providing these thoughts and ideas as my desire grows for reliable information as a citizen, as well as my concern for the massive polarization that has infiltrated our guardians of the truth. When profits overtake principal, the system breaks down. As a brand strategist I see the consumer getting manipulated, brain-washed and polarized by the 24-hour propaganda proliferation machine. There is great power in the development of a successful brand. It can gain or lose power over time and conditions, and should stand as a true reflection of the person or entities it represents. When truth and principal is compromised for profit the short term gains will not outweigh the long term problems.
Consider hanging a picture that is 24″ x 24″ square and it’s nailed to the wall in a fixed position but is 1/16 of an inch off. Aesthetically it will look level and the crooked position would not be noticed. Now consider hanging a picture that is 24″ x 240′. The 1/16 increment that was virtually unnoticeable on the smaller picture is skewed nearly 2 feet. Our government, her laws and her three branches provide the structure and mechanism to keep our country on a straight path. But at this juncture we struggle. The truth has become somewhat ambiguous and this idea of common values and principals all depends on the standard of measurement. In business, the pursuit of profit might be measured by an employer who has reasonable and legal goals to increase 20 fold. However, attaining the goals might greatly conflict with my principals as a father that needs to allocate time for my wife and family. I call this the conflict of the “money stick” vs. the “principal stick.” My belief is that the “principal stick” must always come first. Our laws have become vast, difficult to enforce and have created a conundrum between virtue and the law.
For society to exist peacefully, we have to communicate with clarity, integrity and truth. On the whole, I think most people accept this principal, but the “money stick” outweighs “the principal stick.” To clarify, most of us have generally good intent, until it affects our pocket book or wallet. If I was without food in the inner city and needed food for myself and my family, would I do what I had to do, or would I sacrifice the lives of my loved ones and myself for my character and principals? This just isn’t an inner city conundrum. After more than 20 years of working with brands both large and small, the conundrum and the dysfunction still exists. In terms of scale, dysfunction, financial pressure and communication problems — they all get worse and compound as they scale.
From a branding standpoint alone we have some major media and news broadcasting problems. 1.) Today’s news content is polarized and people watch what they want to see and hear, news is no longer objective. 2.) The connection between funding and sponsors is warped due to the allegiance to profits and ideologies. 3.)24-hour news is misbranded. 4.)Political bias is tolerated (and drives audience, ratings and profits). 5.)The role of the press has become misconstrued (by the press).
My strategy recommendation or formula for change is as follows:
1. 24-hour sponsored editorial (disguised as news) has to stop. It is modern day propaganda and brain-washing. If the content is viable on it’s own – outside of the news format, brand and venue – fine. Let the market and the viewers choose the editorial or entertainment they desire. Channels providing news and information could be rated by consumers on fairness, relevance, timeliness, accuracy and professionalism. The stations that are rated the highest would attract the highest fees for advertising. Competition would drive success and/or the catalyst for improvement. (Separation of news, analysis, and editorial)(Reduction of broadcasting length*)
*Repetitive re-enforcement can’t be used as a psychological tactic. Like yelling fire in a movie theater, news reporting needs to maintain a level of professionalism and decorum. In order for reporting to maintain its neutrality, networks may not over saturate reporting in order to affect or impact causation.
2. News sources need to be neutral. If everyone is pulling from regular sole sources, the sole source brings about a natural bias that is innate to the human capacity. If news agencies are going to pull content from third parties, those parties can’t have ties to a corporate or government sponsorship or subsidy. (Separation of source)
3. News branding must separate from editorial delivery. Only neutral and objective reporting can be qualified as news. All opinion, political perspectives and emotional or religious beliefs will need to be moved out of the news programming segment. News alerts need to be structured across the industry so sensationalism of the news alert doesn’t turn into a psychological tactic for higher ratings. A structured definition of news alert would be utilized across the industry. (Brand separation)
4. Political bias, favoritism and leaning cannot be tolerated. The definition of reporting alone implies an objective, non-partial method of sharing and broadcasting information. News venues who choose to provide biased reporting and delivery will fall short in ratings and reviews, which will have a negative impact on profit. They will accept feedback from the new rating mechanism and improve–or, they will fail. They have the ability to earn, profit and improve…which will be better for everyone, and not just the station.(Separation from analysis)
5. The role of a free press as part of the First Amendment has been misconstrued. It shall be the facts (the truth) reported by the press that holds our government accountable and not the people or ideology of alliances or corporate leaders and owners to do so.
As a citizen in search of a future worthy of my children and grandchildren, I plead with my brothers, sisters, neighbors and leaders across this great country to consider my thoughts as a path for greater clarity and transparency. My desire is that we work together to create a new format or protocol for information exchange and new reporting standards that is, without a doubt, accurate and truthful. It is my opinion that the connection of news and profits should be reconsidered as a nation. I am not suggesting the media is corrupt. I am merely suggesting the benchmarks we use to measure success in this arena shift from seeking monetary-based reinforcement to that of a passion-driven responsibility of finding, reporting and protecting the truth.