Opinion: Bad press


Commentary by Terry Anker

The axiom asserts “that no press is bad press.”  Said in more modern parlance, it would argue that no attention, favorable or unfavorable, that one may find can be detrimental. By extension, it might claim that the news, in itself, cannot cause harm unless the object of it mishandles the event. So, let’s imagine an application. One commits an epic failure – we poison our customers, lie to the camera, or transgress some modern social trend. Do we fail at the moment of the firestorm, or do we fail only as the news cycle unwinds? Is it in our handling of the facts more than the facts?

We consumers of modern information are eager to sit in judgment. The daily Twitter feed dispenses the “truth” in 144 characters. We commit to a point of view based in very limited and often fully imperfect information. Then, as more material is uncovered, or released, our positions ripen. Rage transforms into confusion and then to support – or vice versa. Do we live in an age when the actual news of our transgressions is less important than how we manage to spin the follow-up story?

The media (social, modern and traditional) has become a tool to be used, manipulated and relied upon to nudge our perceptions to one point of view or another. A recent study shows that the bulk of some voters have determined that contemporary American universities are causing harm. One Sunday morning news outlet decried the deplorable view that education is bad. In turning the channel, the next news outlet asserted that although no one thinks education is bad, the current state of university leadership has failed. Both networks had identical data. How can they be so far-flung in their commentary? Are we being intentionally manipulated? If so, to what end? Will the mud ever settle in a spinning pool?