Updated: Sep 16, 2021
Not long ago a client phones me and says, “Alan, the news is reporting the airport is closed due to protesters. It looks like the entire area is being affected. We’re worried we’ll have to cancel our meeting if our attendees can’t fly in or if the city roads get closed. What should we do?
“Let’s see if we can get some reliable intelligence instead,” I replied. In this case, the event was taking place outside of the US and although I’d seen stories of the protests on the nightly news, I wasn’t aware of the details. Someone onsite was able to provide accurate, current intelligence. It turned out the airport wasn’t closed, cabs were still working normally, and the hotel was set to go.
I’m sure the news media didn’t intentionally disseminate false information. Maybe they experienced communications issues or perhaps their local sources had dated information. More likely, they wanted to commit more time and resources to something sexier, like what team might buy up Tom Brady.
However, the point stands. The news we get online and TV is just one source we can turn to in order to verify something that might impact our events. Often times all they provide are the highlights. Not enough intelligence for us to make informed decisions
At one point, news was the reliable source for information. In the last few decades the point for any media outlet has gone from informing to making money. For many news sources, that means short, juicy tidbits of sensationalized gobs that keep you tuned in or logged on for our shortened attention spans. Thanks a lot smartphones!
These days, market share for news comes from Jeff Bezos going to space or Kim Kardashian wearing a black body stocking. What’s happening with wildfires out west, missile tests in North Korea, or hurricanes in the south just don’t draw our eyes anymore. At least not for long.
Need evidence? Check out the morning news shows on network TV. After the first 30 minutes or so, they start “news” about shows, products or personalities directly connected to their owners. Isn’t it just great to see George Stephanopoulos, once a respected political operative and correspondent, hawk Disney as part of Good Morning America?
The fault also lies with us. We consume reality TV and sensational stories like an athlete gulps Gatorade. News can be stressful (ever notice how many medicines advertise during the news?) and no one wants more stress in their lives. We have enough reality as it is. But even reality TV isn’t real. It’s not scripted like a drama series, but it’s still recorded and edited and prepared to give the most shock it can. What you see is not real.
Then there’s social media. This is where a lot of the worst information comes from because anyone with an Internet connection can post almost anything they want. Don’t like broccoli? You can tell people it makes them sick. Feel the earth is flat? Tell how your uncle sailed to his death by falling off the edge.
So, what can we do when it comes to information and meeting safety? Try to get intelligence rather than information. Go to your sources. Your hotels, venues, suppliers, and other contacts. Maybe even first responders and front line workers. Check out what’s happening in real time in the location where your worry lies.
I live in hurricane central and every time The Weather Channel shows some reporter waist deep in flood water, my mom calls in a panic. “Are you okay? Do you have power? I’m so glad I got through. It looks just horrible on TV.” I lovingly roll my eyes and say, “whatever they’re showing must be a good location for ratings. It’s sunny and dry here and I have enough power to charge 100 iPhones.”