Unless you’ve been circling outer space for the last decade, you know me as a vocal critic of the national mainstream media. I’ve felt for years that objectivity is subjective—it has been thrown out with the bathwater in favor of business benefit (revenue) or some other agenda. This practice often works to the detriment of the floor covering retailer or, in some cases, be downright dangerous to society.
As an aside, there is a fundamental difference between mainstream media and trade media. FCNews, as well as the other flooring trade magazines, work feverishly to help you become more profitable and professional. There is no other agenda. That is the sole reason for our existence, along with being a seamless conduit of information from supplier to retailer. Your success translates into our success. But the mainstream media does not care about your success, nor does it take an unbiased position on many subjects.
I bring this up so you can understand consumer sentiment as it relates to your business. I also want to make sure the decisions you make are rooted in fact.
The national media’s malpractice kicked into high gear during 2020 and 2021 or what I’ll call the COVID-19 years. Wherever you turned, just about every media outlet’s agenda was to inject fear into the population’s lives. They sought to make everyone believe if they set foot outside their door they would perish. The mainstream media was a proponent of lockdowns and businesses keeping their doors closed. The governors of states that were more lenient were targeted, in some cases even likened to murderers who were putting citizens in harm’s way.
Why? The more you were brainwashed to stay home “for your own good,” the more you were on your computer and the more you were glued to the TV. Clicks and eyeballs translate into revenue. The more you can demonstrate that people are watching, the more you can charge for advertising and the more advertisers you can get.
This worked to the detriment of the floor covering retailers who were either forced to close (non-essential) or those who were allowed to stay open in states where the narrative was to stay home. Retailers don’t benefit when people aren’t walking through their doors. Interestingly enough, as I learned when I visited flooring retailers in places like Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Ohio and Indiana in mid-2020, business was not so bad. Crazy!
Next is the way the media covers the economy. They like to throw the R word around as liberally as I throw a drink down my throat. That’s also not good for our industry. First, people still have PTSD from the 2008 Great Recession. Second, not all recessions are created equally. Recession is defined by two negative quarters of GDP growth. But even if we are technically in recession, if disposable income is high and unemployment is low, the economy is not suffering and neither are you.
Many floor covering retailers actually thrive during a recession. They had a lot of success in late 2020 and 2021 when the media was pushing the doom and gloom narrative. And today, despite all that recession talk, many floor covering retailers tell me business remains solid. Maybe a little inconsistent, maybe not on par with the last two aberration years. Fewer people are walking into the store, but those who do are buying better goods. Higher tickets mean higher margins. Media-stoked recession fears impact the less informed and can influence consumers to forego postponable purchases, like flooring.
Finally, if you don’t believe how the media can influence the population’s perception of things, take a step back and digest how it handled that unfortunate hospital bombing in Gaza a few weeks ago. The media picked up on a false report from the Gaza Health Ministry (an agency of the Hamas-controlled government) that claimed an Israeli airstrike was responsible for the blast they said killed hundreds of people. However, by the next day it was determined that the explosion was caused by a rocket misfire from Islamic Jihad. President Biden said U.S. intelligence confirmed Israel was not to blame for the attack and backed up Israel’s military investigation.
The media’s journalistic malpractice had immediate reverberations around the world. It caused the President’s meetings to be canceled. Protesters gathered on college campuses, in front of the White House and swarmed the U.S. Capitol. In Berlin, Germany, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a synagogue and riots were reported between Muslim immigrants and police. It stoked the anti-semitism fire.
Some say it was intentional. The New York Times wrote an attention-grabbing headline to generate clicks during breaking news, without waiting for confirmation or actual facts. To take it one step further, the Times put a headline over a gruesome photo of a bombed-out building. The problem was that the building was somewhere else entirely, not associated with the hospital, and was just an available and sensational image intended to amp up readers.
Bottom line: The news media has a huge impact on perceptions and can influence consumer behavior. Do your best to understand what’s real and what isn’t as you make decisions and form opinions. Reality is not necessarily what you read and hear online and on TV.