28 November 2006

What OJ Tells us About the Media

Once upon a time, in a land not so very far away, the media had a particular role. Its business objectives included making a profit, yes, but its purpose was to make this a better country.

In today's world, the health of the Republic is subordinated to profits. Fox demonstrated their commitment to this principle of profits first when they decided to broadcast OJ explaining how he would have murdered his children's mother if he had. The fact that Fox chose not to go through with this plan says nothing about their conscience and everything about their awareness of the power of consumer boycott.

The enlightened person realizes that one's own fate is always bound up in the community she's a part of. We exist only in a web of relationships and to ignore the health of this web is to ignore any credible definition of self. Yet what are the prospects for a community when their very media forgets this?

Business guru Peter Drucker said that a business's purpose is never to make a profit anymore than a person's purpose is to breathe. Profit is necessary for a business but it is not a purpose. One wonders how well, if at all, the modern media could articulate such a purpose if unable to use the words "ratings" or "profit."

Perhaps the saddest thing about this is how keenly so many journalists realize this and how well they could articulate a mission. Yet one of the things that I repeatedly see as I go into organizations - from medium-size companies to Fortune 10 companies - is that leadership, sadly, sets the bounds for ambition and rarely can any individuals within an organization sustain efforts that transcend the bounds set by management.

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