Sponsors behind poor y2k coverage in mass media

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Many wonder what4s wrong with y2k coverage in mass media at this late stage. Me too. Some talk about 4conspiracies4. I think it4s simpler:

(1) Y2K is difficult to understand. Y2K in-depth analysis requires time. Journalists are hard pressed for time. Moving targets keep them busy and make them lose perspective. Research journalism pays little and costs much.

(2) To make things worse, on the surface y2k looks EASY enough. This compounds awareness problems to the point that CSIS y2k Seminars have revealed the degree of y2k ignorance from both Clinton AND Gore as close as November 1998.

(3) Journalism is heavily dependent on sponsors, of course, and sponsors do not want y2k awareness. Sponsors (large corporations) would be heavily impacted if y2k awareness grew because consumers would re-orient their expenditures to basic things like water, power generation, food, etc., and not the fancy (superfluous?) stuff that consumer goods are all about today. Of course that if y2k hits bad enough, large corporations would get terribly hurt, far more than if most people had prepared. But big business is either myopic or is just plain betting the farm on a "bump in the road". Could happen? I believe so.

So this is not a 4conspiracy4 oriented explanation, but rather a "I4m more miserable than thou" competition among our political leaders and big business, including banks, of course.

How4s that for a first shot? Please criticize

Take care

-- George (jvilches@sminter.com.ar), July 14, 1999


I agree with most of what you said, but I think the primary reason is that Y2K is not a visual story. It's hard to show it on television. What does a picture of a computer not working look like?

Additionally, pressure has been put on the media to soft-pedal the issue to prevent panic, plus there's a natural reluctance to believe bad truth. If Y2K really whacks the country, these reporters may be out of a job.

-- Dog Gone (layinglow@rollover.now), July 14, 1999.

All true. Don't forget the religious element that unfortunately gets stirred into the mix, & with which "smart" people are desperate to avoid being connected. All those millennialist wackos storing beans & rice & ammo... What serious person would want to get mixed up with that bunch?

-- them (folks@is.crazy), July 14, 1999.

them, I agree with you. Certainly confuses the picture, don4t it?

Dog Gone, you are right! Y2K is way too abstract. Imagine Joe Six Pack trying to figure it out while the message is all on the contrary. But funny enough, surveys clearly indicate that educated people are actually (percentage-wise) more in denial than poor Joe. Soooo... Dog Gone, could you please expand on the different mechanisms by which journalism is "pressed" to soft-pedal y2k? I mean any ideas?

Take care

-- George (jvilches@sminter.com.ar), July 14, 1999.

I concur, in large part, with both of the above. I think we've become conditioned over time to expect "visuals" in stories, and at least 30% of people seem to learn new material better visually than auditorily.

I would also observe that most people have difficulty in comprehending "systems" problems; they don't seem to be able to make the links between farm- processing plant- truck- distribution center- grocery store for their meat, let alone the multiple combinations of "pressure points" which are at risk due to Y2K. Further, we have all been spoiled by (basically) an upward linear movement in our lives and expectations- we expect next year to be basically the same as last year or this year, perhaps a bit better (more disposable income, etc.) Even for those living in hurricane or tornado prone areas, few make many if any preparations for the next storm- instead they expect to be able to do "Just In Time" shopping for whatever they need, the day before the storm is to hit (assuming, perhaps incorrectly, that they'll have plenty of advance warning, supplies will be available, etc.) I have found over the past 18 months that there are (so far) two basic response to information about Y2K: (1) "Oh, I'm sure Bill Gates will figure something out in time." or (2) "Yes, it's going to be awful- could you please pass the mustard? (disconnect!)" The only question of interest now is: when do you think the "light bulb" will go off for most people: Labor Day?, Halloween?, Thanksgiving?, Christmas?, January 3, 2000?, when their TV Cable goes out??

-- Paul Urquhart (paul Urquhart@worldnet.att.net), July 14, 1999.

Last night, on the Crier report on Fox, there was a segment on Y2K. It was basically about how we should all prepare, but with no firm dates or numbers.

Today, on Shepard (Smith??) also on Fox, there was another segment. Natch, I missed most of it. But, on both shows, the anchors were not condescending, nor were they alarmists. Seemed like well balanced advice, prepare! I did catch a hint of "Don't depend on the government to do this for you". Also, both segments were with guests. Of course, didn't catch their names, but today's guest had written a book (of course!!!) which I think was called Y2K Lists, things you need to do to prepare.

So, this issue is getting into the mainstream.

Set Editorial Hat ON

As a rule, I prefer CNN's coverage. I used to think Fox was too sensational, but now I'm giving the "Flash and Trash" award to MSNBC. If there's a hot story going, MSNBC will get to it when they're done gibble gabbeling about Hillary or George! Fox has really become more balanced, the effort shows.

Set Ed Hat Off

-- blu (watching@news.com), July 14, 1999.


I think your #3 is the best case as to why Y2k isn't a big story worth even serious, in-depth coverage. It scares corporations and corporations do business with eachother, including advertising in the media.

If a news organization wants to or could make a lot of money with a sensational story they usually wouldn't hesitate. Hey, they would sensationalize anything to make a buck in today's "news entertainment". But an in-depth story of what *might* happen if things go bad isn't good for business.

I don't think it matters that Y2k isn't a "visual" story yet.

A movie script isn't "visual" either...just a concept in writing. That's where the Art Director, Set Designer and the Costume Designer along with all the other thousands of people behind a movie come in to play. Storyboard out the script and the shots and how the camera will work through the scene. Block the actors, set up the effects.

It wouldn't be hard to bring a "visual" representation of Y2k to the screen. If it was in the best interests of the organization to produce hard-hitting segments based on in-depth analysis of Y2k it could be done, no problem. There is stock footage of just about every major natural catastrophe, man-made catastrophe, war, etc. And what ever doesn't exist can be created with a little imagination, a director and a camera.

The problem isn't that Y2k is a hard story to tell.

The problem is that Y2k (in any form whether real, imagined, doomer, polly, etc.) is a hard story to sell.

Mike ===================================================

-- Michael Taylor (mtdesign3@aol.com), July 14, 1999.

I may be totally out of line in my guess, but I'll bet that 99% of the people posting on this forum are in their 40's or older. We have lived through recessions, gasoline shortages, runaway inflation, and interest rates that sky rocketed (while trying to build and sell houses when mortgage loans were at 18%). Our parents drilled it into us about saving, the depression, etc, etc,.. But the demographics are- achangin'. were getting older and the younger adults are becoming the largest spending group thus the target audience of the media. Our kids have never lived anything but an ever increasing economy and anything to the contrary is so absurd to them as to be laughable. The media being driven by the market would be totally foolish to pop the bubble. I think too, that national media writers live in New York and Washington and other big cities of the world and anything like a war or a flood or a famine is so alien to them that they never really get it. (There's a canopy over the front of their "building" and a doorman to flag down a taxi or open their limo door, and a canopy or underground garage at the office). Really can't hold it against the media, they are probably just as clueless as the sheep they preach to. It might be really enlightening if some of them actually got caught out in a thunderstorm or blizzard (or cascading computer glitches) and had a bit of reality slap 'em in the face.

-- Roger (pecosrog@earthlink.net), July 14, 1999.

So many comments so few fingers.Ill start with this one..

" I think the primary reason is that Y2K is not a visual story. It's hard to show it on television. What does a picture of a computer not working look like?"

"Additionally, pressure has been put on the media to soft-pedal the issue to prevent panic."

-- Dog Gone (layinglow@rollover.now), July 14, 1999.


How many times do you see a news story without pictures or video on television? Almost never, therefore it will take a catastrophe with pictures that is openly contributed to Y2k to motivate the media (and open their eyes). That raw sewage (4 million gallons) that was propelled out of the sewers in CA. recently was not enough. Im sure there are some GIs in the main stream media waiting for the opportunity to expose the potential long-term threats to the public.

Pressure put on the media?

Absolutely, after all, this is Clinton's media for the most part. The media has been programmed to look at the GI movement the same as they look at skinheads, militias, self-reliant groups as well as self- reliance in general. IOW, if you dont want to rely on the government, you are an extremist.

-- Mike (midwestmike_@hotmail.com), July 14, 1999.

"I may be totally out of line in my guess, but I'll bet that 99% of the people posting on this forum are in their 40's or older."

-- Roger (pecosrog@earthlink.net), July 14, 1999.

No Roger, youre not at all out of line, and incidentally, I really thought this was a great post.

But I disagree with you on the 99% assessment. Im 37, no kids, no mortgage (live in an apartment in the suburbs of St. Louis). And I would put the percentages more like this:

1) 30-50 years is 60%

2) 20-30 years is 10%

3) 50+ years is 30%

4) Under 20 are mostly trolls and pollies

Those who have a different view, please feel free to post it.

-- Mike (midwestmike_@hotmail.com), July 14, 1999.

Mike, I think you are getting closer and closer. You may be quite right already by the way. At first I agreed with Dog Gone on the visual difficulties, but you proved us wrong I think.

Now another angle of the media coverage is people's reaction to the current mis-information trends. When public opinion finds out what's at stake and that time's practically expired for true preparations, fear and irritation will arise from one minute to the other. Dangerous cocktail mind you.

Like take TIME magazine. They didn't miss the y2k boat once, they missed it twice, with cover story and everything remember? They published my Letter to the Editor as the sole, lonely voice warning that y2k wasn't about year 2000 sects but rather about broken code.

There are many other examples of course, but the whole point is that the media have pretty much placed their bets on y2k. And if doesn't turn out to be a non-event a some have preached, TSWHTF I tella ya. And soon as the US State Dept. starts issuing scores on FOREIGN y2k compliance (apparently soon), automatically it will become an international mud slinging and/or pissing contest umpired by the international press. My experience tells me that this 'softer' side of y2k may turn to be most interesting, probably with heavy impact on y2k politics and communication strategies soon to be implemented world-wide by governments and businesses throughout. Once again, including mass media y2k free-for-all coverage, let's not forget that foreign countries ALSO play, and we can't just bomb'em away this time around, can we?

-- George (jvilches@sminter.com.ar), July 14, 1999.

I agree with most of the responses listed above. As an engineer working in the aerospace industry which probably represents the working stiff at all levels, I believe that we have become such a reactive kinda crowd (especially on abstract things)that we wait until something happens and are very good at fixing things. Y2K requires a desire to learn, research, planning,and then making the necessary adjustments for things to come based on some level of confidence. Too much for most folks that believe that big business and Uncle Sam will keep things going! My take however vague!

-- Bob Evans (bevans1065@aol.com), July 14, 1999.

"Mike, I think you are getting closer and closer. You may be quite right already by the way."

"George (jvilches@sminter.com.ar)""

George, help this overtaxed mind here. Which Mike were you refering to?

-- Mike (midwestmike_@hotmail.com), July 14, 1999.

The biggest advertisers for most newspapers are grocery stores. They have trained us to shop every day or two, and do not want people changing food buying habits for anything. Other main advertisers are selling all sorts of useless things that if we put our money into preps we will not buy. Y2k is advertising POISON. Want to buy a house? Taking out a bank loan? Banks don't want y2k b/c of possible bank runs. Financial section? The market does not want us to sell our stocks. Hey, follow the money.

-- seraphima (seraphima@aol.com), July 14, 1999.

I can't imagine anything more visual than an exploded pipeline and burned kids---poo up to your ankles----groups of people in the hospital on resperators---the lazy buggers(newsmen/women) just refuse to connect the dots.

-- Catherine Plamondon (souldancer@pop.spkn.uswest.net), July 14, 1999.

Mike, actually both Mikes!! (honest)

Besides we all pretty much agree here. By the way, how did we manage to keep the Hoffs and the Pooles and the Flints away from this thread?

Did we hit upon a lucky strike of some sorts or maybe without knowing it we got the y2k secret genie out of the bottle, huh?!

Take care. Comments welcome, we might have something going here guys.

-- George (jvilches@sminter.com.ar), July 14, 1999.

Every network was obviously opposed to the removal from office of Clinton during the impeachment.

So why do you expect these people now to be professional?

Does anyone doubt that if Clinton wanted this to be a big deal the networks would make it one?

-- GA Russell (ga.russell@usa.net), July 15, 1999.

Just a small tit-bit for those who would dismiss reports of corporate PR media manipulation as "conspiracy theory"...

Australian Bankers Association caught paying radio broadcaster $1.2 million to change his tune on banks...this guy puts the "ill" in "shill"

-- number six (Iam_not_a_number@hotmail.com), July 15, 1999.

George, feel free to lump me with MidwestMike anytime! lol

By the way, I remember very well the letter you wrote to Time!

Great thoughts on this tread!

I wonder how far along the newsmedia are in their Y2k remediation projects?

Mike ====================================================================

-- Michael Taylor (mtdesign3@aol.com), July 15, 1999.

Michael Taylor Mike(!) yeah, mass media've got Y2K on their scalp too and it will bite them, communications-wise, PC-wise, software-wise and the chips. Just think about the electronics. Good point. I'll be mean now: they would deserve a nice Y2K shock, wouldn't they? Let's hope Civil Defense radio stations have got their act together on Y2K preparations, powerful gensets, etc. BTW, what may happen to 'freedom of the press' during y2k itself (martial law?).

Mike, I think its the absence of polly/trolls that have allowed us to focus on this thread's subject matter without deviations. You know what, feeding the trolls is a big mistake and I, for one, should abstain from the temptation. It's newbies that worry me, 'cause they may not know enough and if polly/trolls are not chopped down to size they might not Get It. And we can't afford that.

Number Six, if stakeholders start throwing money at y2k media coverage we are all in for a nice, rough, "hard ball" stakes. So far, the EPAs, the Ralph Naders, the Jane Fondas of this world are conspicuously absent from the international y2k debate, but as soon as the SHTF, they'll stick their necks out, probably pretty mad, irritated by the poor y2k media coverage. Internationally, we've got to be ready for an unbelievable "the USA did y2k on purpose" campaign, Bill-Gates-should-have-solved-it type of scenarios, the gringos are to be blamed, after all they invented computers, Silicon Valley planned it, and any other crazy y2k junk we could dream of. International public opinion will be against the US on y2k. This is not trivial, 'cause y2k will hit world-wide.

Another point off the top of my mind: Some honest journalists fear being ridiculed about y2k. As I said in point (1) of the original post of this thread, y2k is dificult to understand, it requires time. Many journalists (and laymen) fear that y2k may turn out to be a non- event. And under current y2k circumstances, honest journalists fear they would be staking their career development on the y2k outcome. Many are probably sitting on the fence just waiting... And of course the minute that chances are somewhat clearer, many may jump on the y2k bandwagon in a matter of minutes, which would crack the y2k press coverage game wide open! I repeat, the media better think things out very carefully or they can easily get into trouble.

-- George (jvilches@sminter.com.ar), July 15, 1999.

George --
Here's the money line: "Sponsors (large corporations) would be heavily impacted if Y2K awareness grew..."

Good point! I draw two things from the lack of Y2K coverage: 1) Government and private organizations hope to avoid panic that might prompt unusually erratic behavior. 2) U.S. capitalism can not thrive in an environment that discourages investment and spending, so the desire to "ignore" a potential problem perpetuates itself (we don't want to hear it / you don't want us to know).

-- Klar (klarbrunn@lycos.com), July 15, 1999.

Think of most people as being logical icebergs. 10% of their thoughts/conclusions/drives as being overt and objectively rational, 90% of their psyches as submerged/irrational/undescribeable as logical/unreachable by anything but other "id"-type motivations. That is, Y2K is so psychologically inconvenient as a concept that not until their plates are empty in cold dark houses will the majority of the sheeple admit that Y2K may be kinda serious after all...


-- MinnesotaSmith (y2ksafeminnesota@hotmail.com), July 15, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ