Media under water

Whenever we have a big news story, it feels as if the story arc inexorably heads toward a media review of the media’s role in covering the story.

The most recent example (until the next one): heavy flooding in Nashville, TN following a weekend during which the city got stuck under a storm system that dumped 15 inches of rain in a day.

As it happened, I was traveling to Nashville on May 4. My plane landed in sunny, nearly cloudless weather that gave those of us with window seats a birds-eye view of the most extensive flooding I have ever seen.

At Newsweek, Andrew Romano is right: the media outside of Nashville did not do its job.

I had paid attention to the news, and I knew that there had been severe weather. I had heard of flood warnings, but when I landed, entire areas of the city were under water, something largely unreported before I left.

In being right, though, Newsweek risks perpetuating a second media tradition: hand-wringing our way out of meaningful change.

If there is a business model for effective reporting (and I think there is), writing about the need for change is only the first step. What is Newsweek, or any other media entity, planning to do differently in the future?

That’s not to pick on Andrew Romano, who raised the issue. I wish he’d been in the taxi I took back to the airport on May 6. The driver told me of a cousin who had seen flood waters rise so quickly he barely had time to grab the family dog. In waist-deep water, the pet panicked, broke free and was lost.

If I can hear and tell that story, so too can the businesses we pay to bring us news.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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