By Samuel Strait, Report at Large – March 30, 2021

It is often said in this brave new world that we occupy that public
perception, media reporting and reality are too often worlds apart. 
Climate change, wars, poverty, pandemics, corruption, evil, rampant
crime, racism, sexism, inequality, overpopulation, and biodiversity
collapse are just a few of the things that are screamed from media
headlines on a regular basis. Everything is beyond salvation, and
humanity is at the end of times.  What is the point of looking to the
future if this is what is in store?

The good news is that things are not always as bad as portrayed in the
headlines, nor in much of any of the stories of doom and gloom in your
local news source.  When a plane goes down and kills many hundreds of
people, the knee jerk response by the public is an increase in resorting
to car transportation from normal travel on an airline.  The media is
almost breathless in its coverage of the tragedy, interviews, who’s at
fault, did the plane itself malfunction, and on and on.  The perception
being that riding on an airplane is extraordinarily dangerous and
aircraft tend to crash frequently and indiscriminately.  Public
perception is on high alert for more such tragedy.  Reality is some what
different.  According to recent findings, air travel is significantly
safer than traveling in the family vehicle.  Only one in eleven million
passengers might experience death from airplane crashes.  One cannot
ever compare that to the thousands of deaths from car crashes each year.

The media’s sole reason for existence is not to portray the mundane of
daily life, but to reveal the sensational.  Negative news sells even if
it might be a rare occurrence.  Because most folks get their knowledge
of the world through the media, very often this skewed version of world
events cause their perceptions to be distorted, disfigured, and wildly
inaccurate.  Reality come very often in most unexpected ways.

In a recent summary of police shootings of black men in America, a
Washington Post article claimed that just short of 1,000 black men and
women where shot by police officers in 2019.  Harvard economists took
that article and those that read it and asked those surveyed how many
police shootings of unarmed black men in 2019 had occurred.  The
response was startling.  Republicans felt the number was between one
hundred and one thousand.  Democrats felt the number was between one
thousand and ten thousand. Unaffiliated answered fifty to one hundred. 
The answer to that question as best determined was twenty five.  No
mention of the actual number was mentioned in the original article.

The bottom line is that even the smartest among us are clueless about
how the news media environment is distorting our world view.  People are
not starving at record levels, violent crime in America has declined over
the past several years, and police are not normally responsible for
systemic racism.  Air travel is exceedingly safe, and we will clearly be
able to survive climate change.  All of the items listed at the
beginning of this article as catastrophic seem to have solutions and are
gradually receding as a danger to the human population in the future. 
Media and public perception are not often in line with reality and the
public would be well informed to understand that difference.

2 thoughts on “Public Perception, the Media, and Reality”
  1. Mr. Yarbrough,
    Thank you for that link and reminding me about Grit as I had forgotten about it. Lots of interesting article. I wish The Triplicate could be more like it.

  2. Sam,
    I think it was in the mid 1980’s when a close, long time friend of mine educated me to the workings of “direct marketing.” His father was an author who had a full time job as a postal worker but wrote books and pamphlets of general information either available by the US Government who encourages anyone to sell it, or from compiling reference material in his local library to people interested in ‘obscure’ information. Such information would be a list of all the worlds major hockey leagues, or all the worlds “Halls of Fame.”

    Once such book would be written or created, he would find a publisher or self publish and go about sending out ads for his works. That’s when I learned about advertising rates and distributions of various publications. The trick being to get the largest distribution of people who would see, and likely buy his books for the lowest advertising dollar. Because most of his material would not be considered ‘sensational’ buying ads in the National Enquirer didn’t make sense. However for the curious soul, say perhaps a Popular Science or Popular Mechanics a ‘test of the water’ 3 month run would certainly be worth the gamble. One of his old standby’s was one of the more reasonable, with a very stable, and loyal distribution, called, GRIT Rural Lifestyles – or just GRIT. I had never heard of it but came to learn it was the longest running “good news newspaper” in the country.
    I will include a link here for anyone and everyone that would like to take a break, reflect or find a refreshing perspective on information worth sharing. https://www.grit.com/grit-history
    Jaime Yarbrough

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