Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bummed out by the news? You need to read/watch anyway!

Bummed out by the news? You need to read/watch anyway!

For quite some time now, the news has been going in a weird direction. I think it all started with the live broadcast of the OJ Simpson car chase, way back in 1994. We became, as a nation, fixated on weirdness and sensationalism. Not that we weren’t fixated before; The National Enquirer was founded in 1926 and has been fertilizing our inquiring minds ever since. But with OJ and Monica Lewinsky, we began to clamor for a steady diet of the salacious, ugly news … perhaps because it made us feel better about our own lives. And boy, oh boy, is the media eager to feed our endless appetite.

I remember sometime in the late 90s, taking a cab over to my then-boyfriend’s house in Jersey City, NJ. The driver had on the news, which at that moment was a report of a little boy and his father who’d died in a fire, just weeks after the mom had been killed in an auto accident. Now this was something like 12 years ago, and I still remember it like it was yesterday. How many newscasts leave that kind of imprint?

I was later complaining to a friend about how awful it was that they’d put this on the news, and he said, “Laura, that’s not news. It’s gossip.” Oh my God – he was right! As badly as I felt for the little boy and his parents, there wasn’t anything I could do for them (other than pray). It didn’t affect my life in any significant way (other than to make me very sad). It wasn’t a public health or safety issue. It wasn’t really news – it was gossip, plain and simple.

So I immediately went on a news fast that lasted for quite some time. One gal I worked with at Lehman Brothers (yes, that Lehman Brothers) called me irresponsible for not watching and reading the news. I told her that it wasn’t like I’d taken up camp under a rock; the important stuff would filter down to me. And it always did.

Then I became a business owner. And a blogger. And an article marketer. And I began to see the utter necessity of paying attention to the news. Not that I’m advocating following every scandalous detail of David Letterman’s love life or this ridiculous Jon and Kate (no – I’ve never seen the show, but I think I’ll live). But I do suggest paying attention to the news, as it relates to your business or industry … and then commenting on it – particularly the bigger stories – as appropriate, in your blogs and articles.

So it would actually behoove certain people to pay attention to the news about Letterman’s trysts with his staffers; their (very public) affects on his marriage would be important, for example, to sex therapists and relationship experts like Deb Stelzleni and Sunil Ahuja. Who would benefit from following Jon and Kate is anyone’s guess, though…

My point is that the news is a really important way of staying in touch with topics that matter to your business or industry. Read industry-specific journals and periodicals (on- and offline), to be sure. But don’t skip over the mass media, like The New York Times, USA Today, Huffington Post, CNN, Yahoo News, and your own local daily – if you’re still fortunate enough to have one. You don’t have to read every gruesome detail, or even every story. I get the daily New York Times delivered to my e-mail inbox. It’s really just a digest of the day’s stories, so I can skim the headlines and only click on those that appeal to me. You can – and should – do the same.

Stay current and then start commenting. Agree with the writer/reporter/blogger. Disagree with the writer/reporter/blogger. Bring a new/different vantage point to the topic. And don’t be afraid to let them know.

Write your ideas, comments, and/or feedback on your own blog, post them on facebook and twitter, but also use the comment section that virtually every major news outlet has at the end of each story/report. They allow you to submit your name, e-mail address, and a link to your blog or Web site.

And, quite often, the reporter/blogger’s e-mail address is included – so be brave and drop them a line to congratulate them or suggest a new angle on their story. You may or may not hear back from them … but it sure beats the guarantee that you WON'T hear back if you never contact them. And who knows what can develop if they actually do respond?!

For answers to your questions about writing, editing, marketing, or design e-mail Laura or visit Write | Market | Design, where we specialize in teaching our writers to think like marketers!

1 comment:

  1. Nice piece, Laura. Couldn't agree with you more about the gossip. For the most part it seems like only the REALLY BAD stuff makes the local news headlines. Your advice for business folks like me is pretty awesome. THANKS!