Monday Memo: Humans' Hubris | TALKERS magazine : TALKERS magazine – “The bible of talk media.”

Monday Memo: Humans’ Hubris

| December 6, 2021

By Holland Cooke


BLOCK ISLAND, RI — Sightseeing in Washington? If you’ll be visiting stately memorials to Thomas Jefferson or FDR or Martin Luther King Jr. – or if you’ll be strolling the cherry blossoms in April – wear your galoshes. Nearby the rising Potomac Tidal Basin, The New York Times reports that in the archives beneath the National Museum of American History “floodwaters are intruding into collection rooms” where the Smithsonian is storing The Star Spangled Banner, Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves, the scripts from M*A*S*H, and other priceless pieces of the puzzle that is us.

Perennial western wildfires get worse. Fingers crossed in Texas as winter looms. Last month – November mind you — here in Rhode Island, THREE tornadoes touched down in one day. Last time we had A tornado was 1950. Yet media soreheads scoff at climate change. Drill-baby-drill.

As if that isn’t the story of our lifetime…

Most of us are coping with – and too many have died from – a “novel” virus, meaning like-nothing-we’d-seen. Those who refuse to cope tend to die, as talk radio’s own have. Thankfully few took The Dear Leader literally when he mused about ingesting disinfectant, and laughably many took livestock medicine. This bug is a bugger, and mutating variants demonstrate that it is learning us slightly faster than we are learning it.

Remember when the shutdown first hit? 7:00 pm, every night, like clockwork, New Yorkers threw-open the sash…not to holler, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!” They cheered, clanged pots and pans, and played the National Anthem, to salute healthcare workers and each other. Back to the future: Cabin fever, tribal obstinacy, and stupidity won out. Dr. Fauci is demonized for a cautious surmise based on data the volume and velocity of which technology now enables.

Media giveth, and taketh-away

In that 1918 pandemic, before radio, few knew until it was too late. Now, when we can see it coming on stilts, we want to argue about it. And often we hurt more than help by amplifying misinformation, because we can’t afford to do better.

Talk is less expensive to produce than news. On cable, much of what’s branded as “news” is panel discussions. Many participants are no-charge attention-seekers, and paid “contributors” are less expensive than newsgathering. On radio, surviving news people are likely in-house readers working select dayparts, and outside reporting is rare in most markets. Few stations can, for instance, localize the supply chain story that is altering everyday life in dozens of ways, in the manner I recommended in a recent column here.

Accordingly, media dispense more feelings than facts. And in these tribal times, rampant overstatement and paraphrase are too-easily inferred as information, because:

  1. We choose to believe what we choose to believe; and
  2. “If it’s on radio it must be true.”

Hubris defined: Thinking we’re bigger than Mother Nature. And she’s throwing us two fastballs at once. During World War II, my dad was on the other side of the world for three-plus years; evidently less time than this pandemic will hamper us. Being The Greatest Generation, his seems more resolute than many are now. Even in the eventual New Normal, four doctors I’ve interviewed tell me we’ll get a COVID jab every year, like the flu shot. And our best efforts will only mitigate climate change.

Tell them how to cope

What will continue to distinguish stations that commit and execute well: Survival information.

Say “Here’s what we now know.” And admit “what we don’t yet know” (translation: keep coming back). And steer them to authoritative third-party information you curate online. Doing so earns you a reputation, gets quoted, and drives clicks. And stations I work with sell sponsorships.

Holland Cooke is author of the E-book “Spot-On: Commercial Copy Points That Earned The Benjamins,” a FREE download here; and “Multiply Your Podcast Subscribers, Without Buying Clicks,” available exclusively from Talkers books (click the banner on this page). HC is a consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet.  And he hosts “The Big Picture” TV show Friday nights at 7ET on RT America.  Follow him on Twitter @HollandCooke

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Category: Advice