Newsjacking Tragedies: Is it ethical?

Painting by Justin Lovato, Infinite Bewilderment
Painting by Justin Lovato, Infinite Bewilderment

First, what is newsjacking*?
It is a practice whereby a company, organization, or individual uses a trending media topic or news story to bring attention to one’s own interests that lie outside the value of the story itself.

For example:  A specific hurricane is about to hit, I write (use media) about the current hurricanes potential to do damage and push how my storm shutters will prevent $X damage to your property.

The above is a very straight forward example of newsjacking with a physical product and is typical of business’s marketing schema. Where it gets much more interesting, and where I believe ethical questions abound, is when your product is the media itself. IE’s product to it’s customers (advertisers) is media that promises to attract eyeballs. CNN’s job, in a very basic sense, is to get an individual’s attention (on a mass scale) that drive subsequent behaviors leading ultimately to a purchase of their customers’ (advertisers) products. The viewers are merely an audience by which all their revenue is driven.

Audience attention (a factor of time and quantity) is what media outlets crave and clamor for. Unfortunately, on many levels, people yearn to hear stories of failure and tragedy. Thus one could say the media outlets value is a derivative of failure and tragedy. This is where the ethics behind the creation,curation, and consumption of news come into question.

I believe the topic at hand to be both paramount and complex. I only claim ignorance and bewilderment on the matter and am seeking to come to terms with it as a consumer (and sometimes a creator/curator) of media.  I will be bringing my learnings, leanings, and conversation into the public sphere using the media tools available to me.

In the coming weeks and months I plan to work through the following subjects:

  • Why people yearn to hear stories of failure and tragedy
  • How to ethically to consume the ‘news’
  • How to resolve the ethical dilema of creating profit from tragedies

*Newsjacking is not new, but rather a new term given to what the ‘news business’ has always done. It is ‘new’ for other companies (non media centered ones) to be getting in on the mix given the media tools now available to them.