Saturday, November 15, 2014

Advertising's Role As Truth in Modern Media

In November of 2014, the journalism world was all abuzz about a widely viewed viral video purporting to show a Syrian boy rescuing a younger girl from gunfire. The video is dramatic. Indeed, at least one YouTube source showing almost 4 million views within a few days.

Unfortunately, a number of major world-wide news organizations featured the video as though it were real. That they rushed to show this video without verification is a powerful statement on the current status of journalism.

This video is not real.

It is a fake video made and posted by, of all organizations, the Norwegian Film Institute. Here is a photo of the production crew. They produced the video on the island nation of Malta, on the set of the movie Gladiator. The photo shows the boy actor (blue shirt) alongside the young actress he was presumed to rescue.

This unfortunate scenario is revealing about the status of truth in the mass media. The extreme pressures to garner audience attention (or "hits") has turned the media businesses, including traditional journalism, into a "hype" industry.

Indeed, attention has become the most valuable commodity on the Earth. Every organization supplying media content is aware of this priority. This recent comment comment demonstrates the manner in which the pressure for attention affects organizational behavior. In this connection, truth becomes what attention requires.

Significantly, commercial advertising remains the only form of media communication that must be truthful by law. Commercial speech has a long tradition of regulation by government agencies and in civil and criminal courts.

It is important to recognize there is only one media information source that must withstand the legal test of truthful claims. It is advertising. As the public continues to search for relevance and veracity in the media, this fundamental distinction will become increasingly important.

  Copyright © 2014 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved. 

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