I am involved with several hobbies that aren’t “main stream.”
I like to geocache. I’ve recently started letterboxing. I play disc golf. These items don’t get regular play in the media, whether it be newspapers, television or whatever.
Personally, I don’t mind. At the same point, it’s good to see these hobbies when they get a little ink.
But people expect too much.
I’ve spent most of my professional career in the media, whether in newspapers, magazines or public relations. I’ve seen both sides of the coin and understand how things work. Though I know most people in these hobbies think that everything is going to be kept how they hope — it won’t happen. It can’t happen.
Because it doesn’t tell a story.
This idea for a blog post came to me after reading an article in a Massachusetts-based newspaper about letterboxing. The article does a decent job at explaining the game (albeit not using the word stamp, instead using “seal”) and talking to letterboxers. However, there’s a video that shows the reporter going on a hunt, showing the find, and showing stamps in the log book.
This is something that some letterboxers are not pleased about and that I can fully understand. But, there’s something that needs to be understood by the public about the media.
It has a job to do.
That means reporters, editors and whoever else decides on a story. Then they decide how it needs to be told. Then it’s told. Let’s take the letterboxing story and such.
If you told the story just a little bit, left some things our and whatever else — it makes the readers wonder. What is missing? Same with the video. Now, I won’t disagree that it could have done a better job hiding some things. There’s no reason to have 5-plus minutes of watching this person going after the letterbox, finding, showing everything etc. It could have been done where he shows the start, maybe at some point show the trail, then show the find (after found, so as to not give away its spot).
But the contents? Have to be shown. A stamp needs to be seen. A book needs to be seen. People watching and reading this have to see what the end result is. By not doing that, the reporter isn’t doing his job and is doing a disservice to readers and viewers. Now, it could be argued that he could have asked a couple of letterboxers to show some stamps for the video. That would have worked. And I think having some letterboxers along for the video would have been good, to give it a different approach.
That being said, it can’t be both ways. If people want mainstream coverage, there’s going to be a bad to go along with the positive.
Let me give an example.
When I first started geocaching in 2008, I was enamored by it. The newspaper I worked for had a quarterly magazine, and I had the chance to write and take some photos for a pretty big spread on the game. I talked to many people for the story, used a lot of cool photos and got a good reaction to it. I covered my bases though — I talked to people, I talked to two of the founders of Groundspeak, and made sure I didn’t give away secrets.
Not everyone has the luxury of an extended deadline, however. Sometimes, you only have a short amount of time to write a story and you do the best you can to tell the whole story and inform your readers.
During my college years — and in the real world — one thing has always been said about media and such: There’s no such thing as bad PR. Though that’s not always true, it holds true in many situations.
Let me give an example.
A few months ago, a 30-minute sitcom was going to use disc golf in one of its shows. In the end, said show (Happy Endings) ended up making fun of the sport. It called it frolf. It made it sound like a waste of time.
But it showed the sport. It put it out there. And in the end, there were probably some people who got interest out of it via that show. That didn’t stop disc golfers from getting all fired up about it and calling the show out and such about the way it treated disc golf.
In the end, who cares what a dumb show thinks?
Again, I’ve worked most of my professional career in the media. I can’t blame people for getting upset about things when something they are passionate about gets portrayed in a light that they might think is bad. That’s a human reaction. But, put yourself in the shoes of others before getting too upset. Realize these people have a job to do, too. And they have a large group of people to answer to when it comes to the general public.
It’s the beauty of how things work, though. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and nobody is wrong. It’s people who keep media in check and that’s a good thing. And in the end, getting the word out there about a hobby isn’t a bad thing. It makes people aware of what’s going on and at the same time might get some good people involved.
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