In only a matter of weeks the political panacea that was Sarah Palin, the untried Governor from Alaska who seemed to be rejuvenating the fortunes of the republican cause, has morphed into a PR nightmare.
Firstly, her unorthodox outburst about the mining initiative in Alaska left many feeling burned. Then came an enquiry into whether Gov. Sarah Palin abused her power to settle a vendetta against her sister’s ex- husband and, most recently, her flabbergasting performance in an interview with Katie Couric last week, an interview in which she gave such rambling, dim-witted responses to predictable questions that “Saturday Night Live” lifted whole chunks of actual transcript verbatim and inserted them into a parody sketch over the weekend.
If this is how the media reacts to Sarah Palin alone, how on earth will the media frenzy over the financial meltdown be judged? It’s not a great time for senior government and city councils, or strong words of wisdom in leaders or editors’ ears. Panic, driven by the 24/7/365 news cycle, exposes the lack of any considered comment.
Last night, I was giving a talk in Leeds for the Leeds Media Group. I was in the company of 50 or so media, PR, business and marketing people who had come to listen. The dominant topic of conversation in the bar after my talk was the credit crunch, and many were scathing about the media hysteria surrounding the subject.
I would suggest that the upheavals, although serious, are not as catastrophic as the media wants us to believe. I smell a PR conspiracy. A crisis like this is fantastic for sales hits and clicks. The über PR “greys” and consultancies are doing a roaring trade too, clocking up council hours deep into the night, offering an expensive shoulder to cry on.
It’s a blood-spattered hamster wheel and it has us all mesmerised, heads hung low, as fear of a Wall Street crash kicks in and dreadful images of a world on its financial knees are being implanted subliminally into the collective subconscious. If my premise is correct, the general populace is being utterly suckered by the newsroom panic. The next question though, is where will it all lead?
I have a hunch that in a few months we might all be looking back, feeling that what seems to be a maelstrom now was no more than a storm in a mug of grande skinny wet latte extra shot with chocolate to go.
If the mass media continues to heat up daily debate without demonstrating a will to rise above pandemonium, then surely all this sound and fury is merely hammering home another nail in the coffin for the traditional media.
I suppose this may sound a little over-the-top, but surely there is still a place for meaningful and considered comment from a trusted commentator in the broadsheets. The media needs someone or something that can counteract the need for quick, knee-jerk sound bites.
Broadsheets have the ability and time to spend cutting to the heart of the issue, but at the moment, all I see is reactive coverage that takes its lead from TV news. This is a clear opportunity for print to take a stand but I doubt that they have the confidence to buck the sound-bite trend.