By Dennis Culloton, CEO and President
Way back in the 80s, media critic and author Neil Postman wrote a prophetic tome, “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” which predicted mindless TV would infiltrate and dominate all public discourse and life.
Though I had to read it way back in the last Century, it all came back to relevance when I was in Canada visiting my daughter and her boyfriend (at our Ottawa Bureau). I flipped on CBC, Canada’s all news network, to hear the sad news of the destructive earthquake in Nepal which caused death and destruction across southern Asia. After watching a young news anchor provide an informative and serious update for several minutes, without much video available to help because of the epicenter’s remote location, I decided to check on how CBC’s American brother, CNN, was covering the temblor.
I wish I hadn’t. I am several minutes dumber after being treated to an in-depth report that Bruce Jenner is now a woman.
A couple of hours later, I performed the same test. And I learned once again, Canadians care about the earthquake and it’s victims. Meanwhile on CNN, instead of getting news about the human drama and suffering from the disaster, I learned that Bruce Jenner was still a woman.
Contrary to what some of my media colleagues might think, this trend is as disturbing to the public relations professionals– at least those of us representing clients with public affairs issues–as it is to journalists. We need serious discussions too because we have elections, government administrations and businesses to run and it is harder to get your message out when we spend all of our scarce time, and our dwindling IQs, on special reports of celebrities and their no-longer private lives.
Mr. Postman passed away more than ten years ago, but his son wrote the foreward for the books reprint about nine years ago, when we were already being subjected to Mr./Ms. Jenner’s extended family of Kardashians. Perhaps the next edition should be called “Kardash–ing Ourselves to Death.”