Monday, March 06, 2006

What Readers Really Want?

David Friedman has written an extremely perceptive post on the media.

"I often use my car's satellite radio to listen to political talk shows. The experience is not encouraging. Most of the content, left and right, amounts to "our side is wise and virtuous, hooray, their side is stupid and evil, boo"...Being nice is less dramatic than being nasty."

Right on. I was for awhile (one year and eight months to be exact) an editorial writer for one of the best selling papers here in HK. One day, my then boss met me in the office and told me what I wrote was boring. I then asked him how I could make my column interesting.

Just yell at your opponents and let them know they were stupid was his reply. I then asked what about logic? To hell with logic responded my then boss. "Who cares about logic? We are not in the business of selling knowledge anyway," said my then boss. All I needed to do, I was told, was to appeal to my readers' emotions.

Weeks later, I quit. David Frideman nicely captures how I feel about the whole thing. As an editorial writer who believes in the free market, I tried to treat people I disagreed "with honestly and sympathetically, conceding the parts of their argument that are correct while disputing the parts that are not." Unfortunately, that style of writing was not what my boss expected from me apparently because such an approach was "less effective...than telling them what idiots they are—especially if most of your listeners are already on your side."

Question: Say if someone already is a believer in free market, why would he or she spend time or money on radio programs, talkshows, and newspaper which provide nothing to him/her other than reaffirming his/her prior beliefs? Or is reaffirmation of his/her prior beliefs all he/she wants in the first place from such media outlets?

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