Getting Our Priorities Straight

The world is awash in information but by traditional definitions little of it is actually news. Online sources now prioritize items that produce clicks over those that inform. We live in a world where the headline; Kylie Jenner changes her hair color and other news, is given as much weight as; Obama signs order for new pay rules to be effective December 1. This was vividly evident when searching for more coverage the morning after it was revealed that the new salaried employees pay rules, due to be implemented in December, were halted by a court injunction. A significant number of people have been expending a great deal of time, money and energy making sure their businesses would be ready for the changes, only to have the plug pulled in the eleventh hour.  Likewise, employees have already been told of new work arrangements that would be altering their lives and budgets. Logically those directly affected need to know if this is permanent and if not, when might the rules be modified or replaced.

Knowing that this was an event that affected millions of people and thousands of businesses, it would be reasonable to assume that it would get top billing on any news feed. Pulling up the MSN news page at 9 am on the morning before Thanksgiving (the day after the late day court decision) produced no prominent mention on the main page. Google news also failed to include it among any of their major headline categories. Yahoo news would not even have been worth checking because it has become dominated by sponsored click through pieces and celebrity minutia. By mid-day MSN and Google got on board with Google news including it in the second group of main stories. MSN did not make it a main headline but did include one article far down the page, below such breaking news as … Kanye’s hospitalization could lead to hefty insurance payout … Ellen DeGeneres Gets Emotional Receiving Presidential Medal of Freedom … Cat rescued after stuck on pole for 9 days … The Gosselins: 10 years later and 13 of the Best Selling Red Lipsticks of All Time. These and an amazing number of other items were featured ahead of providing information to employees and business owners who either counted on or were concerned about what is now not going into affect December 1. Attempting to confine your browsing to so called “hard news” sources doesn’t make it any easier. The unabashed bias displayed during the recent Presidential campaign has awakened those seeking clean facts to the reality that what they read will likely be influenced by a dose of personal opinion and institutional activism.

 Obviously this isn’t all the Medias responsibility as they only publish what the consumer responds to. An obsession with celebrities, reality TV, social media and the latest cell phone app has made it possible for those in power to treat us like fussy infants who can easily be distracted from the unpleasant by jangling a metaphorical set of cars keys. Getting our priorities straight can lead to informed citizens and informed citizens make better choices. Burying important issues under a pile of fluff and noise is not in anyone’s best interest.