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Posts tagged ‘Olympics 2012’

It’s Time To Stop Pretending Dumb Twitter Reactions Are News Stories

Olympic gymnastic Gabby Douglas holding her gold medal.

There was a very, very, very pointless news story last week regarding Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas’ hair. A handful of idiots took to Twitter to complain that her hair looked unkempt. Now any reasonable person reacts to this “story” by not reacting at all, because what an athlete’s hair looks like is about as important as what shoes a surgeon wears. In this case, a high and tight bun is standard operating procedure for gymnasts, so I really don’t know where the conversation came from in the first place.

Oh that’s right, it came from a handful of idiots. Turns out when you give everybody a voice through social media, idiots will say idiotic things.

What I don’t see is how that handful of easily ignored idiots got to dictate headlines. Tell me what’s wrong with the following real headlines:

“Controversy”? “Debate”? “Outrage”?

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

You all do realize that for a debate, you need a point and a counter-point. All we’ve got here is a counter-point. Nobody is actively arguing that Douglas’ overly practical hairstyle is unacceptable. But the press, blogs, and other commenters are keeping this one-sided conversation going anyways. It’s blossomed into a full-on “debate” but the only people having the debate are the ones still acting like there’s something that needs refuting.

Check out this lead from NBC’s Today Show website (the first link above):

Just before the scoreboard showed that Gabby Douglas had won the gold in individual gymnastics last week, her mom Natalie Hawkins had only one reaction: relief. It was relief that came after ten years of training, after her daughter said she dreamt of being an Olympian, and after she let her daughter move away from home at 14 to chase her dreams.

The relief didn’t last long, as Hawkins soon found herself defending her daughter’s hair, which had been swiftly criticized for being both “unkempt” and “embarrassing” very soon after Douglas made Olympic history.

“The relief didn’t last long”? Give me a break, Today Show. I seriously doubt Gabby or her family give any thought whatsoever to this “controversy” beyond when you and other media outlets bring it up. This all grew out of a handful of Twitter posts. Don’t you all know how easy it is to ignore a dumb Twitter post?

Creating a news story from Twitter stupidity is incredibly easy. You can do it yourself. Next time any sort of news or sports event happens, just search for keywords that could be linked to the most offensive possible interpretation. You are bound to be hit with big pile of ignorance and failed wit. That’s what one story did after the women’s soccer match between Japan and the U.S. I’m sure you can imagine what the keywords were for that.

Now, admittedly, we ran a story back in the spring about Twitter reactions, regarding The Hunger Games and the casting of actress Amandla Stenberg as the character Rue. Actually, it’s remained one of our most popular articles on the blog. But, as the writer of that article, I’d argue there’s a difference between stories that ask broader cultural questions — in that article’s case, people judging a film based on how it matches up to their own imagination, not to the descriptions in the book — and stories that simply point out dumb people saying dumb things.

We’ll always have idiots. Let’s try to limit how often we give them a stage.

 

 

 

My Losing Battle Against Spoilers, Olympic Edition

North Korea faces South Korea in ping pong.

Source: Korea Herald

Airing the Olympics should be a no-brainer. It’s like having the Super Bowl. Film the game, air the game. Make sure not to show exposed breasts during your halftime show. As long as you remember these three things, you’ll get millions upon millions of viewers and no real backlash.

But NBC has decided to complicate step 2 by airing the Olympics on a tape delay for American audiences. While the world watches live, the US has to wait until the network-calculated peak viewing hours to watch their favorite sports. And when those hours come along, well, I hope you like swimming and gymnastics, because other than a tiny bit of volleyball, those are the only sports I’ve ever stumbled across just by turning on the TV.

There’s only one problem: the Internet exists. Which means people are used to getting information pretty much immediately. There’s a good reason that, even in an era of video on-demand and DVR, sports are one of the few things I make a point to watch live, whenever possible. When something real is going on, when the rest of the world is feeling the same tension you do, watching TV becomes a more social experience. That’s true even if you’re alone. Mid-game phone calls, posts, and tweets are routine, and a good way to get through tedious commercials.

This isn’t just true for sports. Well I’ve never really felt the same way about reality shows (because I don’t watch them) or pre-recorded comedy/drama shows (because those rarely feel “social” in the same way sports do), I can understand the appeal of taking the time to watch premieres live.

NBC has apparently completely lost sight of that basic appeal to the social nature of sports. And weirdly, I’m pretty sure they think they’ve done the opposite. No doubt the decision to not air things live went down like this:

NBC EXEC #1: “London is 5 hours away from the East coast, 8 hours away from the West. All the events are going to be happening while people are at work!”

NBC EXEC #2: “What if we just wait until everybody’s home from work, then air the games?”

NBC EXEC #3: “Brilliant! That way we can cherry-pick the events with huge audience potential that we already know have dramatic outcomes! Nothing but swimnastics from 5 to 11 pm!”

INTERN: “Why don’t we just air the events live during the day and then re-air the cherry-picked versions during primetime?”

NBC EXEC #1: “You’re fired.”

Rather than relying on the inherent appeal of live games, which naturally create the sort of “event” TV networks always want for their programming, NBC thought it could recreate the “event” in a more commercially viable time slot.

But, all criticism aside, the approach is bizarrely actually working. The opening ceremonies set a record-breaking 40.7 million viewers. While many are bristling at NBC’s hyping of pre-determined events, many more are willing to go along for the ride with the tightly controlled presentation. I myself have probably watched as much of the games as ever and watched a lot more of the “big” matches than I would otherwise.

Still, I miss randomly stumbling across some weird outlier game because that just happens to be on when I turn on TV.  That’s always been the greatest appeal of the Olympics for me: finding myself surprisingly engrossed by hammer throwing or race walking or badminton.

Apparently North and South Korea faced off in table tennis this past Monday. I had no idea. I would’ve loved to watch that. But by the time I found out that this match had happened, I also found out who won. That takes away a lot of the incentive to seek it out after the fact.

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