Politically ignorant generation of sheep

Are we the generation of the politically ignorant?

politically ignorantThe word ignorant gets its root from the word ignore. Someone who is ignorant is someone who ignores. Because we ignore, we are politically ignorant.

I worry about the future of my government because I live with generations of the ignorant. We have almost no sources of news today other than the slimy slanted broadcast news stations and broadcast news centers.

Things have changed and not all change is progress.

When I was a young person, the TV networks took news seriously. The vision of Walter Annenberg attempted to present the top news stories of the day in 30-minute segments every evening.

Some even adopted 60-minute formats and news anchors tried to present the facts. Editorial content was reserved for a few small moments every few weeks when the station’s editorial staff expressly present an opinion piece.

Politically ignorant was not Walter CronkiteThere were inherent reasons why this format worked. Americans, by and large, received or purchased a daily newspaper. These papers subscribed to international bureaus like the AP or UPI and the larger papers had reporters stationed all over the globe, collecting, dissecting and evaluating the validity of the world’s happenings.

The broadcast news bureaus were not designated as profit centers. They were part of the station’s charter to serve the public interest. No one confused or polluted the broadcasts or segments as entertainment. Few were politically ignorant.

When CBS, NBC, and ABC covered the political conventions, the news anchor (like Walter Cronkite or David Brinkley) watched the event and acted as a master of ceremony diverting the live cameras to the stories taking place on the convention floor.

Everyday beat reporters, like the soon to become famous Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw, asked hard hitting questions of Mayor Daley or Everett Dirkson.

What do we have today?

Drivel. Politically ignorant drivel.

Panels of talking heads replay scripted spin. The conventions themselves lack the drama of even the Academy Awards. The reason? All the outcomes and decisions are known before the convention itself. The result is ignorance.

Politically ignorantWho needs to make a considered decision when you can tune into any specific political broadcast and see and hear only from proselytizers and pundits that already agree with your pre-determined decisions?

How many Americans believe that Jon Stewart, Bill Maher and Bill O’Reilly are newsmen?

This lack of discourse makes ignorance comfortable and worse still acceptable. How many of you have heard of the Pulitzer Prize-winning web site called Politifact? It is a web site dedicated to political fact checking. It looks for misinformation on both sides of the aisle.

Today, if you are unhappy with the way government is working (or not working), I say that we get the government we deserve. And we deserve the government we get.

the results of being politically ignorantI am NOT outraged over Donald Trump’s political comments concerning Russians and emails. I AM outraged that his supporters are not providing any political incentives or consequences to stop this unfiltered crap.

Political benefits at what cost? Diplomacy works only through back doors not through bullying tactics. As a nation, we pretend to abhor bulling in our schools but we seem to have no problem rewarding it in the important geopolitical arena.

So what is the end result of political thought that is unchallenged and ignored? History tells us the unbelievable and the inconceivable happens when rational objection and forethought goes out the window.

When it is suggested that we could make ourselves safer and preserve our culture… the silent majority nods in agreement. Let’s put the Jews in camps.

MSNBC and its lack of brand personality

Love it or hate it, Fox News has a brand and that’s the single reason why it leads in the cable news ratings by a large margin. With news that MSNBC will shake up its primetime lineup to jump start its lagging ratings, it would behoove the network to think less about what personalities it puts on the air and more about what personality the network itself presents.

To be fair, MSNBC is second, while CNN is third. CNN has its own problems of which I’ve laid out before, but the point is that both of them are too concerned with the personalities they put on the air and not enough on what the whole network means.

The constant handwringing at MSNBC comes as viewership dropped 27% from February of last year and a whopping 48% among viewers age 25-54.

Basically, MSNBC is in a free fall.

So here’s MSNBC’s plan, according to Politico. All in With Chris Hayes will be moved, Politics Nation with Al Sharpton will now air on the weekends and the network is going to trot out new faces.

MSNBC once thought this guy would save the network.
MSNBC once thought this guy would save the network.

This is the hamster wheel MSNBC is running on and it won’t work. Changing out this show for that one, introducing a new host and coming up with a new catchy phrase to describe said show is more turns on the wheel.

Fox News, while sporting well-known hosts like Bill O’Reilly, could change out shows and see very little change in its viewership. That’s because its loyal audience knows what the network stands for and, therefore, they become loyal to the network, not the personalities, because of it.

What MSNBC must stand for does not have to be a spot on the political spectrum. In fact, I have long urged CNN that it must stand for the voice of reason but it keeps falling into the same trap with The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, Erin Burnett OutFront and Anderson Cooper 360. Shows focused on personalities.

Those may be fine shows, but few tune in because CNN as a brand doesn’t mean anything.

What networks like MSNBC are doing is akin to BlackBerry trotting out new product features and wondering why it can’t make any inroads into Apple’s market share.

Start with the brand first, then it doesn’t matter who you put on the air.

Flipboard has changed this blog

I always find it interesting how the patterns of our life evolve into new patterns.

My job, as a brand guy, is to take notice of those patterns and ask why they exist in the first place.

And so, I have noticed a change in myself and habitual patterns, even when it comes to writing this blog. In the past, I would begin the day by scouring over a host of news websites: Huffington Post, Yahoo!, USA Today and the New York Times, to name a few. I read up on business happenings and connect myself to an idea within a relevant story to my business.

But now, things are different. My process matured into something new.

My new daily routine.
My new daily routine.

What happens when I find that story and need a little more info to tell it? That’s when I turn to the most reliable, self-curated news app I am aware of: Flipboard.

The app is an elegant, create-your-own news magazine. I can search any topic and a litany of articles from around the web are presented in a well-crafted “flipbook” about that topic.

This doesn’t leave me without the headlines. I can always check out the sites, “Daily Edition” or choose “news” as a topic choice.

Why did my blogging pattern change?

It’s simple. I wanted the ability to choose the news I wanted to help me tell the stories I wanted, and not have that process dictated for me.

Flipboard gave me that control.

The State of CNN

I tuned into Tuesday’s President’s State of the Union Address and found myself totally disappointed. Not in the speech itself, that value judgment depends completely on your political bent, but on the coverage.

For whatever reason, I tuned to CNN. I just wanted to witness the speech and then flip the TV off. This speech is as close the US gets to royal pageantry. And I enjoy seeing the Supreme Court Justices, Joint Chiefs and legislators in one room. I love it when the Sargent of Arms announces the President’s arrival. I don’t care if his name is Bush, Clinton, Reagan or Obama, it gives me a bit of a thrill.

I'm done listening to these blowhards.
I’m done listening to these blowhards.

However, I had to sit through a rehash of the exact words the President was going to speak…over and over again. And this rehash was before the speech. Good God, someone should do their homework and not take the easy way out. I guess I expected more from Wolf Blitzer.

The President had barely started his proclamations when CNN had a screen violator asking us all to vote— in real time on the President’s speech. That was it. I had to find a channel that was not part of the political spin that had sickened me in the past decade or so. I am not even sure where I re-tuned but it might have been C-Span or PBS. All I knew was that I wanted no commentary and no asinine opinions. I just wanted to hear it and see it for myself.

CNN had already ruined a good deal of the speech because it pre-told me several times that President Obama was going to pronounce that the worst of times was officially behind us and that “the State of the Union was strong.”

Why am I so offended by these live polls? Because I am a researcher as well as a brand strategist and I have a deep background in research. This is NOT research (read about real research here). This is a self-selecting sample that is in no way representative of the actual responses. What you end up with looks a lot like what spin doctors would produce. It is an inverse bell curve, overly sampled by people at the extremes. Only those who love it or hate it responds. This is why we never build brand messages on self-selecting methodologies or focus groups. It is just process gone wild.

So, CNN, MSNBC, FOX and the other entertainment channels that pretend to be news outlets— I’m done with you. The state of affairs that our nation finds itself in, one of severe disagreement and the inability to govern, might be in many ways a result of the so-called dialog incited by these media giants. Funny how much we mimic those news broadcasts.

I’ve got an idea, why don’t we make the next State of the Union address a reality show? We could comment on the suit selection and have it hosted by Ryan Seacrest.

The fallout from Rolling Stone

Can a publication that’s been around for 47 years be permanently harmed by one article? Can a movement be doubted because of the mistakes from that article?

Those are the questions I’m asking in light of Rolling Stone’s admission that its scathing article about a gang rape on the University of Virginia campus was, shall we say, incomplete. The article itself, published Nov. 19, was so shocking that it prompted the university to shut down operations among all the fraternities on campus, local police began an investigation and the article started a national discussion on sexual abuse on campuses.

The story was that troublesome and statistics have shown that there is a sexual abuse problem on our nation’s campuses. What Rolling Stone failed to do was to attempt to talk with those on the other side of the equation (the accused), which The Washington Post did – only to find out that many of the facts were questionable at best.

Still a worthy issue to raise, despite Rolling Stone's mistake.
Still a worthy issue to raise, despite Rolling Stone’s mistake.

For Rolling Stone, I believe its brand (outside of its music reporting, it has been known for not being afraid of publishing hard-edged journalistic pieces that go all the way back to Hunter S. Thompson and up to the recent article on Gen. Stanley McChrystal) will keep it relevant even as many will be wary of its true intentions. It’s true that Rolling Stone is not what it used to be in terms of having an important place in our collective culture, but its brand is strong enough to overcome this mistake long term.

For the raised awareness of sexual abuse on campuses, I have greater worries. This is a serious issue that should be discussed despite Rolling Stone’s misstep. Reports of sexual abuse on campuses are rising up to 50% from earlier this decade with a handful of our largest universities posting shocking numbers.

Now, there is fodder for defendants that those numbers are overblown and that there is no epidemic on our campuses. Of course, who is guilty or not should be proven at court, not by public opinion. But the movement itself has taken the far greater hit from Rolling Stone backing away from the story than Rolling Stone itself.

It will take some time for it to regain traction, and I agree with the UVA student newspaper that said this issue should not be ignored no matter what was true or not true about the Rolling Stone article.

But the hardest work the movement faces has now arrived.