Discovery vs. Affirmation? What Are You Looking For?

It happens to the best of us. I saw this while on a call and posted it to Facebook in three seconds with a “Who thought this was a good idea?” remark. About five minutes later, I realized my mistake. It was a spoof.

It was an error of affirmation. I assumed it was real because it affirmed a lot of what I believed about oil companies, mega-marketing big bucks, the misappropriation of social media, and crowd-sourcing, and all of the other stupid suggestions that consultants who have no idea about this stuff generally do.

I’m definitely not perfect when it comes to this but it’s something I try to avoid in my professional life. I’ve been hearing two, three, four or more sides of the story since my time in HR. People lie. It’s cynical, yes. But there’s a bigger problem: it happens everywhere.

Politics is the easiest example. Some of the biggest charges typically leveled at politicians is that they are hypocrites, they don’t come through on their promises or that they aren’t always honest. So if you are partial to a particular candidate or cause, it’s probably pretty likely that you’ll see a lot of the other guy doing the lying and not so much your gal. And everyone in politics lies.

I’m not out to change human nature, though. People are always going to do that and it is pervasive.

What is annoying is seeing it from both professional journalists and people who play a similar role (whether you’ll call them bloggers, new media dudes, influencers or thought leaders). In tech journalism, it is easy to see PC guys, Apple guys, Android guys, and Windows phone guys as they go around and cherry pick stories and facts that affirm their version of the truth. In sports, you see the same thing as a writer who is pursuing a story might be more open to suggestions that affirm the facts already found.

Of course, it happens in, what should be, factual news stories. Oftentimes, it is the lazy analysis or editorializing that gets to me the most. Maybe it’s because lazy affirmation is popular or accepted but I can’t be the only one who skips posts and articles from people who can’t leave the cheerleading session to give serious attention to contrasting facts, right?

Crickets

Perhaps it is popular for a reason. Since people are naturally ones to take a side, it is easier to identify with heroes or villains (or likeminded vs. non-likeminded in a lesser extreme). We love watching a Paul Begala or Skip Bayless, even when we can predict the words that are going to come out of their mouth. Whereas real analysis and discovery takes skill and chops to make work (and readable or watchable), being an affirmer to all things in one point of view can be easy, even for a hack. Arguing is easy, not acknowledging contrasting facts is even easier.

I’m a free market guy. I know you have to get eyeballs. But there’s also a reason why I’ve turned off cable news, talk radio and sports commentary (even a lot of pre and post-game stuff, unless Charles Barkley is involved). I do appreciate actual reporting and analysis. The idea that you’ll go out there, collect facts, stories and quotes with an open mind, analyze it thoroughly and then write a story or editorial based on that discovery?

It’s going away.

2 thoughts on “Discovery vs. Affirmation? What Are You Looking For?

  1. The idea that you’ll go out there, collect facts, stories and quotes with an open mind, analyze it thoroughly and then write a story or editorial based on that discovery?

    It’s going away.

    Well that’s depressing. I hope you’re wrong, but based on what I see out there, I’m afraid you’re not…

  2. Great post Lance! This really brought together a slew of random thoughts I’ve been having about the “topic du jour” of engagement, as opined in several recent blog posts. I guess I’d much rather read or discuss topics where we’re basing the content and dialog on real experiences, data and some measure of appreciative inquiry. But that’s just me.

    Thanks for sharing this.

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