One of the biggest national stories of late in the sports world is the indefinite suspension of Ray Rice from the National Football League (NFL). The penalty came down after a video surfaced showing the Baltimore Ravens running back punching his fiancé, who is now his wife, in an elevator of an Atlantic City casino.
Sadly, domestic violence is a pretty common occurrence, and the NFL currently has several active players who are accused of such abuse. The Rice case initially gained headlines because of the video showing him nonchalantly dragging the unconscious woman from the elevator. That drew a two-game suspension for Rice and sparked a national discussion on domestic violence.
Then the second video was released that showed the actual punch and the dynamic of the story changed again, even more dramatically. The Ravens released Rice, the NFL suspended him indefinitely, and even the Canadian Football League announced it would not allow Rice to play north of the border. And the story became headline news everywhere.
The episode illustrates the power of video and the way today’s society processes information. The first video pretty much clued everyone into what had occurred in that Atlantic City elevator; after all, Rice and his then-fiance essentially had confirmed it. Society shouldn’t have needed to see the second video of Rice actually throwing the punch to fully appreciate the situation. However, that second video changed the way people processed the event and stoked the heightened response.
Obviously, domestic violence is a real and serious problem; and such high-profile incidents underscore the need to address this kind of abuse. What I found fascinating, however, is that the key to really stoking national concern and anger seemed to be the video.
National surveys indicate a declining trust and growing skepticism among Americans regarding government and media. As consumers of information, we’ve become so aware of being manipulated on a daily basis with spin and propaganda that we tend to be skeptical of anything we can’t see or hear directly. There is more news and event coverage today – both commentary and editorial – than ever before, but there are also more sources producing it.
There are more and varied media through which we can receive information today, but there’s also a tendency today for consumers to seek out the sources that confirm what we believe. So, in many ways, we are consuming more information than ever before, but in more of a one-sided manner.
For instance, you might be a fan of MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow or prefer to follow Fox News’ Sean Hannity, but you likely realize that you’re consuming a biased perspective. In part, it’s refreshing because when the bias is admitted, you don’t get the feeling that you’re being manipulated.
Mainstream media has had a hard time adjusting to this reality. We live in a world today where I think most discerning people understand that all information is filtered in one way or another. This means that it takes hard evidence – and our own ears and eyes – to really move us.
From an industry standpoint, I think it illustrates just how much we have to change and revamp the way we get our message out to consumers. For instance, to the average consumer, an industry spokesman quoting accurate science is often received as little more than a paid individual advancing an agenda with half-truths. Much more effective is for consumers to experience it directly. Barring that, they must connect, and must have a relationship, with the individual sharing the information if it is to get past our filters.
The opinions of Troy Marshall are not necessarily those of Penton and the Farm Progress Group.
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