Posts Tagged ‘Hype’

Jeremy Lin and the Excesses of the Media

February 19, 2012 1 comment

Look, the kid is amazing.  He’s not perfect; he commits a lot of turnovers.  But he did step up when given the opportunity and he is a tremendous inspiration to many, many people of all backgrounds, but especially to Asian-Americans, for whom he has become a real hero.

It’s the media and its excesses that go way beyond the pale.

This corny obsession with the “Lin” and other puns turned offensive this week.  ESPN had to apologize for a headline on their web site for mobile devices overnight when they actually used the phrase “A Chink in the Armor,” describing his propensity for turnovers.  It got taken down after about 45 minutes but the damage was done.  The very same phrase was used in a televised discussion earlier this week on ESPN and used yet again by the same network in a non-Lin context during the recent summer Olympics in Beijing.

Fox Sports columnist, Jason Whitlock, has apologized for an offensive tweet he sent out last week.  The New York Post got into hot water for an “Amasian” headline they ran the day after he beat Toronto with a last-second three-pointer.

Note to Jeremy Lin- keep doing what you’re doing.  Two good weeks of play does not make you a hall-of-famer but your story does mean a lot to many people who’ve spent their lives getting overlooked and dismissed, sometimes for no other reason than their cultural background or the way they look.

Note to the media- your Lin puns and your occasionally racist undertones are not funny.  They don’t make you hip or amusing.  It’s this lock-step hype that somehow manages to make even an inspirational story like Jeremy Lin, tiresome and annoying.

What’s missing- as usual in this 24/7 media culture of ours- is a sense of good taste, perspective and proportion.

The Media’s Penn State “Exclusives”

November 16, 2011 Leave a comment

NBC News had a legitimate exclusive this week when Bob Costas conducted that riveting, uncomfortable but fascinating phone interview with accused Penn State child molester, Jerry Sandusky. Costas had the perfect demeanor and asked all the right questions and had about 15 minutes notice. A masterful job by Costas.

CBS News, meantime, claimed an exclusive with Penn State Assistant Coach, Mike McQueary that lasted all of 20 seconds and in which he refused to talk about the case. The great headline was that McQueary described his emotions as “shaken” and that he felt like a “snowglobe.”

Yes, as CBS breathlessly touted in marketing its “exclusive,” these were McQueary’s first comments since the abuse scandal broke. That’s technically correct. They also said a window had been opened into his emotions. I’m sorry, but claiming an exclusive because a guy talked into your microphone for less than half a minute and said he felt like a snow globe is not in any way, shape or form- an exclusive. Calling it that is marketing and possibly journalistic malpractice.

Rush to Judgment?

McQueary, of course, is said in the grand jury report, to have witnessed the rape of a young boy by Sandusky in the Penn State football team’s showers ten years ago and then told his father about it before contacting head coach, Joe Paterno. He has been vilified in the media for not having taken action to stop the alleged assault. He has received death threats and was placed on administrative leave and did not roam the sidelines for last Saturday’s Penn State-Nebraska game.

It has since been revealed that McQueary sent an e-mail to a friend in which he says, that though he did not take physical action to stop the assault he witnessed, he did take measures that stopped the incident. He also said he had discussions with police and with the university official in charge of the police.

Everyone is understandably shocked at the vile nature of the allegations against Sandusky. There is much justifiable outrage aimed at a lot of people. But a grand jury indictment contains allegations that have not been challenged by defense attorneys and does not convict anyone- it only provides cause for charges to be filed.

It might be wise to put our pitch forks and torches away for awhile and wait for more facts to become established. The place for that is Sandusky’s trial. And until it delivers a verdict based on facts and witnesses and cross-examination, even Mr. Sandusky is considered innocent.

Until then, we can provide our sympathy for the victims and do things like bemoan the state of college athletics. But it really would be wise to be patient and prudent. And that especially goes for hungry media organizations falling all over themselves for “exclusives” on this story.

There really has been some great investigative journalism, especially by local newspapers like the Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania whose crime reporter, Sara Ganim published the first accounts of the scandal in late March, well before the grand jury’s indictment was handed up. But CBS’ overhyped “exclusive” reporting this week is not even remotely in that same neighborhood.

Assessing Irene- the Storm, the Hype, the Reality

August 29, 2011 3 comments

There’s a lot of debate this day after the storm about whether the media and governments went overboard on Irene…as if we didn’t have a hurricane the size of Europe bearing down on 60 million inhabitants of the eastern seaboard.


Weather science has come a long way and no one can argue that the tracking of Irene was anything but amazingly precise. What the advance forecasts misjudged was the wind intensity of the storm. Some 72-96 hours ahead of the turn toward the U.S. mainland, forecasters thought they might have a category-4 storm on their hands. In reality, though still at hurricane strength when making landfall in New Jersey, Irene was “only” a category-1 and down to a strong tropical storm by the time it hit Coney Island in New York City.

Meteorologists fully understand that they overestimated the wind speed forecasts and will surely be reworking their models for future hurricanes. From the layman’s eye, what appears to be missing in the analysis is the effect on storms once they start getting broken up as they pass over land. That’s a tricky thing to try to project when a hurricane is hugging a coast-line and as this one, actually had three different landfalls; North Carolina, New Jersey and New York. It’s almost as if the wind-speed analysis of Irene’s potential discounted the energy it would lose as it made its way up the coast through the combination of cooler ocean waters and the land masses it went over.

Government Response

New Jersey Governor Chris Cristie and the folks at the National Hurricane Center are certain that the overwhelming and, in some ways, unprecedented government response to Irene- saved lives. Little solace to the 24 37 people whose families are attending funerals today but only God knows what the total death toll might have been had there not been mandatory evacuations, transit system shutdowns and dire warnings from Presidents, Governors and Mayors.

The Media

Yes, the Weather Channel, Accu-Weather, and local and national media brought out all the bells and whistles, super-duper graphics packages, doubled-up staffs and dramatic language through the course of coverage. Of course there was some hype. For people in the weather and news businesses this was the Super Bowl, the World Series and the Academy awards rolled into one.

People like Daily Beast Washington Bureau Chief, Howard Kurtz, got all bent out of shape over the marketing and the splash. Kurtz was angered by the earthquake media coverage too. Surely by now, though, we’ve grown to accept that news coverage in the 24-hour, web and cable-driven news business is filled with hype and spin and marketing. Hopefully, we’re adult enough to take some of this with a grain of salt.

But you know what? A friggin’ 5.8 earthquake that rattles nerves from Georgia to Maine is a big deal and 3,000 people didn’t have to die to make it a newsworthy event in a part of the country where quakes are rare. A gigantic hurricane aimed at the most populous region of the nation is as newsworthy as newsworthy gets. Decry the surrounding hype and the breathless reporting as much as you want- it doesn’t change the fact that both these events really were big, major news.

The Politics

I don’t understand the meme that’s been building in the right-wing world as exemplified by the Drudge Report which is usually the trend leader in conservative talking points. Drudge has spent the better part of the last 3 days complaining about the hype over Irene, downplaying its seriousness and went as far as to link to a web site that questioned the integrity of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration while claiming Irene was not really a hurricane and was making landfall with 33 mph winds, data that was disingenuously cherry-picked to the level of absurdity and demonstrably false.

But what motivates this cynicism? I suspect it comes down to the role of government. Disasters are one of those areas in which governments play key roles and exercise tremendous power. The bigger the disaster, the more people depend on government to warn them, take care of them and then fix whatever is broken in the aftermath. Downplaying the size of a coming disaster deemphasizes the role of government and opens the possibilities of claiming government overreaction and intrusion into our lives.

Grateful for the Overreaction

In the end, if Irene wasn’t all she was hyped to be, she still caused enormous damage and inconvenience, and in some cases, death. If all the media hype and governmental seriousness that was attached to Irene helped keep people alive- then good. I’ll take the hype and make fun of it when it’s silly. The worst of it for me was that I now have 48 containers of bottled water and a half-dozen cans of tuna fish I would not otherwise have purchased.

And God help us when the time comes that the media and government under-hype a potential disaster. That’s called getting caught off-guard and usually results in catastrophe. We should be grateful to have avoided that this week whether it was the ground trembling beneath our feet or less-then-expected winds rattling our windows.