Tuesday, June 23, 2020

2020: The Mid-Year in Review

From the perspective of late June, it feels like 2020 to date has had more chaos (including COVID, the suspension of all professional sports, the killing of Qasem Soleimani that seemed to push the U.S. to the brink of combat with Iran, Australia's devastating bushfires) and news (Black Lives Matter, Kobe's death, Brexit, the convictions of Roger Stone and Harvey Weinstein, etc.) in five months than we experience in a typical year. 

That doesn't include the impeachment -- which seems to belong in the distant past.

And we haven't reached peak campaign yet. Here's what Nate Silver of the FiveThirtyEight blog had to say (as reported in Brian Stelter's Reliable Sources newsletter):

"To get a sense for how much *news* there is in the a given election year, we looked at how many full-width headlines there are in the NYT from Jan. 1 through Election Day in election years going back to 1968. 2020 is, uh, pretty special." Most years, just 2 to 5 percent of the relevant editions had banner headlines. The years 1968 and 1972 were more intense, with banners across about 10 percent of the Page Ones. And 2016 was hectic too, with banners across 15 percent of the fronts. But 2020 is uniquely crazy: Thirty three days of the year have called for banner headlines so far, nearly 21 percent of the front pages since January, and it's only June!

Silver wrote: "The average election year features 10 full-width headlines through Election Day. There have already been *33* this year, and we're not done with June yet."

So it's not just your imagination -- there really is more news, and more intense news, than usual...
In our annual list of trends, we did not identify any of the above news stories.

But we did predict that 202 would mark an age of anxiety, fueled by distrust of big tech firms and traditional and social media.

So we feel we correct called the overall direction of 2020.

We're reminded of that because of an article that appeared in the Vietnam Investment Review entitled, "Pandemic throws global media trends up in the air." We find it interesting that an outlet around the world from us picked up on our view of the world.

Here are two key paragraphs in VIR's article:
Norman Birnbach, president of strategic PR firm Birnbach Communications, predicted in January that 2020 would mark an age of anxiety, fueled by distrust of big tech firms, and traditional and social media, even as people began to rely on those sources more than ever, especially in the United States. “Marketers must not only be relevant – they also need find ways to credibly appeal across a divided America.”
The projection was uttered at the start of the year – before coronavirus hit North America, and before civil unrest plagued the United States as it has done for the last few weeks. Divisions well-noted in the past have intensified to scarcely believable levels. And yet, as more and more citizens around the world look to the media for information, there is no easy solution for the industry to ensure that information is credible, accurate, timely, and is transparent in what it does with the data it collects.
We think the point about credible and reliable information is important. 

We're at a point where whether or not you wear a mask is seen as political. Where lies and misinformation on Facebook and Twitter by politicians is accepted because FB and Twitter don't want to be in the censuring business. Where the New York Times published a column that looks at whether or not there some kind of secret deal between Trump and Zuckerberg.  (Check out "What’s Facebook’s Deal With Donald Trump? Mark Zuckerberg has forged an uneasy alliance with the Trump administration. He may have gotten too close.") Where John Bolton's book can be accused of being full of lies that are classified information. 

We'll do a more thorough recap of the year in November, as always. But we thought it worth discussing information credibility. Because it is a real problem affecting the U.S. and the entire world.