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Aug15

Go ahead. Do a Google News search on 'outrage' ...

Posted on Saturday, August 15, 2015

...or, here, let me save you time: 5,430,000 returns.

  • "Apparent 'pay to cite' offer sparks internet outrage"
  • "How Pretty Little Liars managed to outrage..."
  • "Hillary gets her outrage on"
  • "Euthanization of mother grizzly at Yellowstone prompts outrage"
  • "Murder case sparks national outrage over immigration"
  • And so on...

We love to be outraged.

In a recent opinion piece in The Dallas Morning NewsRalph Strangis writes that the news media also loves "outrage."

"The more divisive a story, the better for business," he writes.

The News' editorial board member Mike Drago attributes it all to the "culture of outrage." 

All I know is that four journalists in the last four months have told me that their bosses now look at "click counts." Meaning, their job performance is based on how many times people are triggered by an image, headline, and meta paragraph on social media to click through to the full story posted online. So, the more you incite, the higher your "click count," the better quarterly performance review journalists receive.

A television executive told me the topic was "boring." Of course he would. I imagine that clicks mean even more in television where journalism was long ago tossed out the studio window.

But when:

  • a journalist at mainstream newspaper tells me that he and his colleagues are measured by clicks. They are also encouraged to post to social media video and images that they take in addition to cranking out stories.
  • a columnist at a salacious tabloid tells me he does not always believe what he's writing. His goal is just to stir things up so he can get "get eyes on the page" (so the paper can make payrol and a profit by selling more ads) (to beer distributors, nightclubs, and sexually oriented businesses, I might add).

That is when I know journalism is dead. It's all about stirring up a response.

A sports publication buddy in Chicago tells me it's always been this way. Maybe. But social media enables outrage an it has only become a player in the last decade. There is a reason it's nicknamed "Hatebook."

And that is where community relations comes into play.

Social media easily allows us to form Tribes of Outrage.

Pissed off about how beer openers are called "church keys?" There's probably an online group for you somewhere. Hate toll roads? Use hashtag #trollroads. Convinced that the U.S. Confederate flag is a cultural symbol? Well, we all know how that turns out.

With as much time and patience Elettore has invested in social media -- and as often as we use it for our clients -- even we get tired of the yammer clans. My colleague Jeff Herrington says that social media exaggerates the opinions held by a vast minority. In a city of 1.3 million, those 50 people you know online can really sound like an army. Even when they are the same 50 people over and over again. Especially when 1,200 RSVP for a Facebook event to activate the community and 50 show up. The same 50.

It make me wonder if the much-referenced social media victory of "Arab Spring" was actually inspired by social media or was it just simultaneous activity going on while the real business of political change was underway. Change that doesn't seem to have had much staying power, by the way. And what the hell ever became of the Occupy movement? It's so 2011.

Doing some background work on influencers, this morning we stumbled into one neighborhood nest of vipers. The theme of their discussion board seems to be complaining about the lack of services and support they were getting from their municipality. Yet, with the same discussion threads, they were trashing the city's elected and professional leaders.

So let me see if I understand this correctly. You slap your boyfriend around and then wonder why he doesn't bring you roses?

At least they have found their tribe. And they have opportunities to believe their small minority is triggering an Arab Spring by posting anonymous blog comments on tabloids that are supported by ads sold to gentlemen's clubs.

Outrage, indeed.

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