What a year!
2016 delivered more surprises than anyone could have predicted.
The loudest news of course was the presidential election, and when Donald Trump won, it started the whole world talking. Well, more like arguing, with yelling and crying thrown in for good measure. Soon after, reports of Facebook Fake News stories became news itself.
Brexit exploded and share prices plummeted after the UK voted to leave the European Union. No one saw that coming either and it gave news media another excuse to pit politicians against each other, and against taxpayers too, which they did with a vengeance.
The world also watched the Summer Olympics in Brazil. It generated considerable controversy, maybe the most in all of Olympic history when news media reported heavily on human rights violations in Rio favelas (ghettos). As a distraction Brazilian politicians accused international media of blowing the Zika virus out of proportion and of chasing visitors away. Media disagreed, of course.
Syrian refugees filled the headlines too with their plight and the response from NIMBY groups yelling, “Keep Out!” It has been a heartless year in many respects with countless distressing stories pitting families and humanity against local and federal governments.
Fifty people were murdered in a homophobic attack on a nightclub where gay men and women frequented. It gained attention around the world as LGBTQ groups banded together to express anger and raise awareness. Many straight people marched alongside too.
Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of the late Whitney Houston, died in circumstances eerily similar to her mother who also drowned in a bathtub three years earlier. Mysteries surrounding Bobbi’s death swirled heavily with news media fueling speculation. Media is expert at speculation and a good reason why spokespeople have to be sharp.
Hulk Hogan won a 140 million dollar lawsuit over a sex tape Gawker published – they just settled this December for a reported thirty-one million. The interesting twist, as if it weren’t interesting enough, was that Peter Thiel a wealthy Hulk benefactor, secretly at first, paid all of Hogan’s legal fees, and because of this, he won causing Gawker to declare bankruptcy. It was fascinating to watch the social media pseudo news giant dragged to its death, and it sent a strong message that even social media needs to abide somewhat by journalistic rules.
Race riots spread across America and around the world at a feverish pitch. Almost every month YouTube and news programs were filled with horrific events of police shootings and angry mobs. Citizen video cameras often captured Black Lives Matter events and fueled a raging fire. Mainstream reporters had a tough time keeping up with cell phone reporting. Five police officers were killed by a sniper in one incident alone.
Marijuana use was decriminalized, and even legalized for recreational use in a number of U.S. states. The furor this caused had reporters scrambling feverishly all over the country interviewing users, church groups, and politicians looking for sound bites from victims, villains, heroes, and the village idiot.
Many more events in 2016 stirred emotions, and there is no end in sight for the new year either. I’m sure I missed a few that are important to you so don’t hesitate to let me know what made your list.
We take stock at this time of year, looking back at what was, and forward to what can be. Each year we hope our lives will get easier and our jobs more fulfilling. In many respects that often happens, but when a media crisis unexpectedly drops your name into a headline, communication gets complicated.
Spokespeople today have a lot to contend with when you take into account all the different levels of reporting currently available. We still have, of course, traditional newspaper and television news companies – many however who can’t afford to fact check as thoroughly as in the past. They no longer have time or finances to report as accurately as they would like, which leaves spokespeople and their companies to pick up the slack to ensure news information is delivered effectively.
Television comedy shows also deliver news, but their political satire is not just limited to TV. Younger news consumers watch Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert, SNL and many more on their phones, and consider it mainstream news – millennials being one of the primary target audiences.
There is a long and growing list of independent reporters, professionals and amateurs alike who show up everywhere and anywhere thrusting smartphones into the startled faces of beleaguered spokespeople. Independents don’t necessarily follow traditional rules and the information they uncover ends up on YouTube and sometimes even goes viral. Citizen journalism has become the new black and became much more pervasive in 2016.
Under relentless assault by disruptive marketing and promotion competitors, traditional news organizations are reinventing themselves and their revenue models. They are fighting even harder to uncover information in a world that now recognizes that “Breaking News” means it is reported in real time on Twitter while the action is still occurring, and it is available immediately on your phone while you are at work or play. News finds us wherever we are day and night. Spokespeople are never off the grid and although they’ve never been able to hide, now, they can’t even run.
Trust in news media had officially sunk to an all time low in 2016 even though more news is being produced by a very large number of professional and citizen reporters.
So, where do we go from here? Ah, 2017 predictions. Speculation is fun, but dangerous, so don’t do it because that’s where a sharp reporter will get you every time. If you don’t know, say so and that you’ll look into it and get back with the facts when they are available! And then do it.
Hoping your news is good news.
See you on the other side of sixteen.
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