Editorial: Day-Glo

We hate to tell you this (although you probably already know): the most opinionated and loudest person in a discussion is not always correct. Yet, we seem to be in a downward spiral of very loud fake-news and clickbait and opinions drowning out everything else. It is a concern for us and should be for everyone.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal ran a story about the Greenwich real estate market that, even to the casual reader, was unbalanced and more of a hit-piece on our community than the type of reporting we expect from the Journal. Mark Pruner, our regular real estate columnist, does an excellent job of addressing the WSJ article in his column this week.

We found his concept of “yellow journalism” having morphed into “Day-Glo journalism” insightful and it peaked our interest. Yellow journalism was first coined in the mid-1890s as a way to describe the competitive sensationalism in the newspapers between Joseph Pulitzer’s New York Works and William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal. Each paper was accused of sensationalizing their headlines and news coverage to sell papers.

With Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Jimmy Breslin, and many others working to get the most accurate story possible, to “get it right,” yellow journalism became more and more the purview of tabloid news.

That began to change with the 1992 presidential elections and the advent of cable news, still young and desperate for content. News cycles, the time it takes to report a story and have the public see it, went from a pace set by the evening news and weekly or daily papers to the frenetic pace of 24 hours a day. The cable news channels needed content constantly. Since then, the pace has increased exponentially.

Today, that content is available in your newspaper, on your television, and through your computer, your phone, your tablet, and even your wrist watch. We are constantly bombarded with content. It is very fast but not all of it is accurate, by any measure. Bloggers, those who disseminate information through social media and websites, measure success by clicks, which can be real or fabricated, and offer content and headlines often difficult to separate from reliable information.

The result, for online readers at least, is a barrage of headlines and stories designed to literally grab attention. A strong digital presence is vital for any media source today, but how to create it without sacrificing the integrity of an embattled industry is not an easy question to answer.

Freedom of speech and a free press are not only cornerstones of our country, they are vital to an educated, involved population charged with governing itself. In today’s environment of “Day-Glo” headlines and stories filled with half truths, it is imperative that all of us have the ability to question what others state as fact or put forward as news. We should do so by actively listening rather than shouting over those with whom we may disagree.

Has the minute by minute news cycle, the age of “gotcha” and bloggers killed the ability to have an honest respectful dialogue? We hope not.

We are looking for a statesman – several in fact – from the entire political spectrum. Statesmen who refuse to sink into name calling and derision; but choose to rise above it. As they rise so will we all.

The battle for our attention is devolving even as the technology that learns how to get it by tracking and manipulating us, evolves. The juicier the headline, the more clicks. Fear, tribalism, gossip, misinformation, opinion, and commentary have become so common place that it hardly phases us. But it should.

A few weeks ago, a worksheet came home from school with our ten year old. It was a fill in the blank with this prompt: I can __________.

He wrote, “think for myself.”