Friday, February 10, 2012


While discussing the Febreze scandal with my lovely wife last night, she pointed out how the entire thing was overblown by the media. Several large American, European and Australian news aggregators were posting links to the "Teacher Febreze's Student" story. 

The story took off like a bullet.  She wondered why? How does something like this rate international  attention up against stories like the death of a kid on a Labrador ice flow, or a staffer at Workers Compensation accessing peoples files?

Is the fact that Labrador residents get sub-standard search and rescue services not more important than a kid getting Febrezed by a teacher? Does a child freezing to death, lost on an iceflow while Canadian military search and rescue helicopters failrd to join the search for Winters until 48 hours after he went missing. Is a report that public servants may be snooping into your private data not a much bigger issue?

I think so, but neither of these stories have gotten the inches of digital and analog ink that the Febreze story got.. These, and other stories were deodorized. The stink that should have been generated by both stories was overwhelmed by Febreze.

I am just as guilty.

Perhaps it is the novelty of the story. One of those what the heck, stories of the weird things. Perhaps, people could relate to it more because they have children or grand children in school.  It is safe to state that "Teacher Febrezed Student" is very click friendly, it arouses your curiosity. 

Just look at the comment sections of any provincial media or blog. People were glued to the Febreze story, it captivated people.

What does that say about the media, and society as a whole?


Anonymous said...

In all fairness, the media covered the other stories...the public chose the fascination of the student story over the others.

Jay L said...

It says that the new, the unusual, the unexpected, get the most attention. And that the media, should they wish to remain relevant, should reflect what society is discussing.

Geoff Meeker posted an excellent column a couple years ago on what is news, and why. It was a snarky response to some tiff he was having with Danny at the time, but the underlying point was well crafted. Danny was annoyed that the media didn't report on good news, and good things happening with the health care system. Geoff quite rightly pointed out that good things happen every day in our health care system. When something goes wrong, it is so unusual as to make news. Mostly, Good News is not "news".

With the Febreze story, it was a one-of-a-kind, never before seen novelty story. Search and Rescue? Heartbreaking, yes. Is it new that our SAR service is not good enough, sadly not. Breach of privacy at a government agency? It's happened before. The Febreze story was new.

News lineups have little to do with how important one issue is over the other, as you well know from your time in the industry. It has to do with society's fascination with new and unusual stories.