If death and taxes are the two things on which we can depend in life overall, I'd like to suggest that the two media experiences we can always trust are sports and weather. Here's why:
- There's no objectivity in news reporting anymore, as we've been taught that no statement comes without influencing context and ulterior motive.
- Blogs are mostly biased on a good day, and there's no way to tell if they're not.
- Twitter reduces any and every topic into an abbreviated declaration into the Void, often substituting oblique riffs for meaning.
- Chat room conversations do the same, with an added dose of vitriol rendering said chats not very conversational.
The infinitude of the Mediasphere has taught us that determining "truth" is a personal decision not unlike choosing what clothes to wear; if you think something is true, then of course it is...until somebody challenges it. The only safe bet is to put money on the ever-changing nature of opinion.
There's a message problem, too, as our traditional sources of authority are as suspect as the media through which they communicate. The a priori assumption is that governments and businesses don't tell the truth, only tell part of it, and/or often times only know part of it anyway. We expect there's another side to every decision and any announcement. It doesn't help that the precepts of branding and marketing have led both governments and businesses to presume that they can manipulate what people know and think.
Thank goodness for weather and sports:
- Both occur in objective reality. Clouds cross the skies and rain and snow fall to the ground. Team A scores more baskets than Team B. The substance of these experiences is real, not imagined.
- They behave according to known rules. Laws of game play and physics determine what happens, even if they can't necessarily predict the outcomes. Nobody has to have some insider knowledge to "get" what's happened, or what's true.
- The narratives make sense, which means what happens in a game or report generally can be followed; we know what and where forecasts and gameplay are going. This makes us comfortable not knowing the outcomes.
- The outcomes are unassailable. Experiencing weather or sports is to experience absolute, factual truth. Precipitation is measured in inches, goals in points. There are no other sides to reports of a snowstorm or NASCAR finish.
- Interpretation comes later and, by definition, can make no claims to being "right." Sports commentary is pure, unadulterated opinion. Same goes for weather forecasts; both pursuits are seeped in knowledge and informed by reputation, but still reply on opinions.
With sports and weather, the media and the message find a happy, reinforcing balance, giving people increasingly more robust ways to participate in those experiences -- smartphone apps, dedicated cable stations, participatory social programs -- without compromising the underlying qualities that make those experiences worth experiencing. I find myself tuning into weather or sports updates as a salve for the noise of marketing and the confusion of the programming it funds and/or obliterates.
I wonder how different things would be if brand communications were similarly conceived and delivered?
Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/teo/74318540/