For nearly 15 years I worked as a marketing director in local television. My job was to get people to watch our station, primarily the news because that’s where the most money was generated. Essentially I would write, produce and oversee the promos that were designed to keep you tuned in after the show you were watching: “Tonight at 10, neighbors are stunned by the shocking discovery police made in this quaint little house on their quiet dead end street.”
I spent most of my day figuring out how to seduce you into watching something you probably didn’t care about. My strategy was to find the most “compelling” (read salacious) piece of a given story, then share just enough to create fear, curiosity, or outrage. Or, as one consultant explained it to me, “Basically, you want to figure out how to make your promo say, ‘Watch tonight or die!'”
Eventually it was just too much.
I had to get out of that atmosphere, and for the most part I have avoided further pollution. But this political circus makes it difficult.
I got into running, then eventually triathlon because I wanted to be a more consistent version of who I believed was the real me. That person is happy, passionate and compassionate, but when he was buried in the muck of manipulation and negativity he lost his way.
At the core, the quest is my favorite thing about triathlon. It’s an open admission by human beings that they want to be better people. They want to get the most out of their mind, body, and soul by pushing the limits of themselves. They face with their demons.
Occasionally, I’ll get caught up in my own game of tricks and fall down a rabbit hole of headline-trickery. Next thing you know I’m knee deep in slander, aggression, and negativity. I can feel my mood shift, my body tense, and my outlook get trampled.
The irony is, the people sucking me down these rabbit holes are every day people who have learned the tactics once reserved for “experts” like marketing professionals in TV news. These people, often friends of mine, will write a delicious looking headline (maybe like the one for this post) that makes me salivate for more.
I’ll click their links and join the angst-party for 10, 15, or 60 minutes before I start to realize it was all a hoax. It’s all one big trick to suck you into their bitter thoughts; not unlike a drug addict looking for a partner in self-destruction.
During periods when I’m not reading or watching news a funny thing happens. I start thinking the world is a pretty good place. I have a great family, good friends, and freedom to do just about anything I want whenever I want. I also tend to believe this is true for most people I know.
Watching news (or reading someone’s Facebook rants) has little if anything to do with being informed. It’s typically a disguised ploy to get attention . . . or make money.
TV news perfected the outrage-seduction technique, probably around the time OJ Simpson was on trial. People couldn’t get enough of the scandal, power struggle, and devisiveness. It was a mountain of sugar and our teeth were craving the sweets.
But it’s out of control. In triathlon terms, we’ve desperately overtrained and need to relax under a tree and look around for a minute.
How else can we explain the fact that while we swim, bike or run, the world seems like a perfect place? There’s simply air, water, and oxygen. The problems fade away and we bask in the moment of that experience.
Momentum is a powerful thing. The media knows this and exploits it on a daily basis to please their stockholders. They will unleash just about anything with little thought under the protection of “freedom of speech” with no regard to responsibility of those words.
Next time you’re training, think about momentum and use it in a positive way. Let it whisk you to a better place with calm, clear, and constructive thoughts. Swim, bike, or run as far away from “news” as possible.
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