Is the media dragging our workforce down?

My deep-thinking colleague, Brian Mullis asks: “To what extent do you feel the constant negative approach to the economy, taken by most of the media over the past 12 – 18 months, has reduced many workforces’ self-confidence? What can ‘good men and true’ do to counteract this effect?”

The primary purpose of the media is entertainment. It publishes what people want to read or watch because reader and viewer figures represent profit. Current affairs as we know them are heavily cherry-picked, so what we think of as ‘the news’ is only what’s considered dramatic, interesting, weird or having enough of a human interest to keep you reading. Things that are critically important rarely get exposure if they’re unsexy or difficult to explain.

It’s also an unfortunate human characteristic that we are fascinated by others’ misfortune, so (at least at first) we were happy to read our newspapers and tut at the news coverage as the terrible reality of the economic collapse sank in. Don’t we all compare notes and horror stories? Didn’t we do it about the Cumbrian floods? Aren’t we doing it now with Haiti or the latest rape or shooting in our town?

Backwards? Or forwards?

Here’s another truth. We lose interest quickly. Having absorbed the enormity of the crash, we now would like to move on, please, and get everything back to normal. A year and a bit after the collapse of the banks, we’re ready to get our next big mortgage and move house; return to a decent interest rate on our savings, and get that promotion or pay rise so we can go on holiday.

The problem is, the crash won’t stop. In fact, as you can read in Greg Pytel’s now-famous analysis, The Largest Heist in History, this economic crisis is only just beginning to unfold and has years to run yet.

So, we all need to get used to being a workforce in a very much changed market.

Is the media to blame?

Is the media responsible for this? Not really. Remember, they only tell us what we want to be told, and when we lose interest, they’ll move on. So, we must still be interested in all those stories about collapsing companies and how it’s affecting individual workers at Bosch and Borders.

If the media really printed how we got here, why the economic rescue is just a band-aid on a compound fracture and what’s really likely to happen in the next few years, we’d be even more depressed!

So what can ‘good men and true’ do? Well, I believe we make our own luck. Remember, the mass media only publish what they think a mass market want to read. Reading what the newspapers have to say is one choice. Finding and reading more inspirational and uplifting things is equally a choice. I’m not suggesting people should only read positive things, but it’s probably true that we could encourage a better balance. The mass media will change to accommodate any significant shift in reader habits, so, over time we can influence it just by doing this.

Leading social change

Something else that strikes me is the increasing shift in social attitudes. People are embracing ‘grow-your-own’. People are recycling more. They are beginning to rise up and say that it’s important for right and wrong to be properly recognised, and for people to be allowed to protect their families and homes from intruders. A chap called Gareth Malone has started a nationwide trend for community singing. People are beginning to set up knitting circles and sewing bees. Pubs may be closing as a result of unfair beer ties, but research suggests that a huge increase in the ‘off’ trade, especially at Christmas and New Year, is at least partly because people are having friends over and socialising at home.

A year ago, America elected a President less remarkable for his racial background than for his work record, which was dominated not by big business but by community organising. Under his influence, across America, people are following his example, voting out the old guard, protesting things that are important to them and joining town councils and school boards in order to make a difference.

I believe ‘good men and true’ are probably already making a difference. Increasingly I see unemployed clients who are refusing to sit on their bottoms and wait for the next job to come along. Once they’ve done all they can on their job search, they’re out there doing voluntary work, writing pantomimes for their local village, helping young people get through college or find a home, serving on parent-teacher associations, taking low-paid work so as not to be on benefits and generally putting more in.

I truly believe that this return to old fashioned – certainly pre-Thatcherite – values is how we will get through this time. I think we lost ourselves there for a while. And I think we are in the process of rediscovering what’s really important.

Have you read something inspiring and motivational that you’d like to share? Use the comment box to add your suggestion. Thank you.

January 20th, 2010 | Category: between jobs, community organising, leadership, motivation, Social change, volunteering | No Comments »

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