Monday, February 27, 2017

Talk is Cheap, But Inspiration Can Last a Lifetime

Unlike many of you, I went to bed at a decent time last night and did not watch the Academy Awards show. Like many of you, I'm keenly aware of the "drama" at the end. It's made my mind spin in some odd circles this morning, so bear with me here.

I'm not going to weigh in on whether it a was a legitimate mistake or a carefully crafted ploy to get people talking about the Oscars today. It's Hollywood. It's media types. Already I've seen the jokes on Twitter and Facebook about how this must make Steve Harvey feel better, and if you know what that reference is to then you know why some people may view last night's "mistake" as a publicity stunt.

"Blunders" enter the social media sphere and generate more awareness than the events themselves. It's the cheapest form of publicity that there is, but I can see some people thinking today that if they could orchestrate a mistake they could generate a lot of press for their work.

Is that ooops going to make me watch the Oscars next year? No. Look, if you watch the Oscars it's because you like watching celebrities get dressed up, talk politics, shed a tear or two and you want to see if the host will entertain or fall flat. There's nothing wrong with that. I'm sometimes interested in the winners of a specific category, or a few categories, and I can check online the next day to see who won. Watching four hours of an awards show last night allowed people who did watch to be in on the big talk of the day. "Did you see that?" "Did you see the look on so-and-so's face?"

As Emma Stone said, "We made history."

To be honest, I'm just glad to have something take over the front page of the news this morning that has nothing to do with politics. Okay, well, there may have been some political talk at the Oscars last night, but that's been overshadowed by the need to clarify that the winners list is the real winners list.

And that makes me a little sad about what happened. Not just because the legitimate winner of best picture may have been robbed of a little of its thunder, but because it underscores the lack of trust people have in information now, even when it's being reported by major news outlets.

And that does speak to something political.

I'm going to sidestep that a little bit. I studied journalism in college. I had the opportunity to hear renowned journalists speak. I also had the opportunity to have my feet held to the fire and learn to validate my sources and substantiate my information. I was a huge fan of Sunday Edition and a huge fan of Bob McAdorey's entertainment show on Global.

Right now, I can walk to the next room and put my hands on a Rawlins Cross CD and know that I saw that band live and have enjoyed their music because of Bob McAdorey. That isn't the only band I saw on his show, but it's just an example of an influence that has endured.

Gimmicks get you for a second. Influence can last a lifetime. I know that as authors, many of us struggle to determine how best to promote our work because we want it to be appreciated and enjoyed. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's far more important to focus on the quality of the work rather than promotional stunts. When you do, you'll build an audience that endures and grows through heartfelt recommendation and referral.

While I'm glad the dominant headlines this morning are about anything other than politics, I have to admit that even the 0.0000001% chance that the Oscar blunder may have been a marketing stunt combines with the recent war against the media to make me sad. We've all been reminded of a crucial truth. Just because you heard it on TV doesn't mean it's true. However, we need to verify truths to protect us from falsehoods, and we do that in our day to day lives with world events and policies and politics through the media. It is not up to anyone else to tell us who can and can't be trusted or how to verify a news source. It is up to us to make sure we never take our news from one source nationally or internationally, but that we verify and confirm and that we make our news sources earn our trust so that we can be confident of their authenticity.

We'd really like to think that when an announcer says, "And the winner is..." that they're going to give us the right information. We'd also really like to think that our journalists are giving us facts instead of falsehoods. When we have verified our sources they can influence us on a level that can last a lifetime.  I've made the mistake of seeing a report we thought was legit only to learn it isn't. Last night reminded me of that, and reminded me of the importance of valuing a trusted source of information.

Be diligent. In this era of 10 second attention spans and Twitter marketing go deeper than headlines. Go deeper than flash-in-the-pan writers who use a gimmick to get attention. Go deeper than cheap marketing stunts and superficial fluff. Wherever you invest your time and money, from movies to books to newspapers, make sure you're supporting quality. The best way to ensure more great movies get made and more great books get published is to ensure the ones that really are exceptional get the attention they deserve for the right reasons.

On that note, I leave you with a lasting influence for me that came from a journalist who didn't need a gimmick to get my attention.

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