Why Woody? Why wouldn’t he?

Headline: Woody Harrelson doesn’t like Donald Trump…who cares?

In other news: Woody Harrelson goes to a fancy dinner…oookaaayy.

Newsflash: Woody Harrelson smokes pot…d-uh!

Nothing in the story that Canadian news agencies ran about Woody and his experiences with “The Don” do anything to advance us as a people, culture or nation. It’s not interesting in and of itself and, despite being about Trump – the Internet’s version of catnip – it is worthless. So why would they run this story? What possible value could their editors have thought it would bring to Canadian readers or to their own news agencies for that matter? Increase click-through rates? It seems pretty clear that they decided to tell this story for no other reason than because their American counterparts did.

Peer pressure affects us all, from our early days on the playground to our school years and throughout our lives. It’s been given a bad rep over the years but, in one form or another, from the subtle to the very overt, proper social development relies on it. It is how we learn right from wrong, principles of fairness, and who we truly are as individuals and collectively a semi-cohesive group. Good or bad, we need it…and it contributes to our continued growth.

The current fascination that the Canadian news media have with President Trump could certainly be characterized as giving in to peer pressure. The fact is, this is all happening south of the boarder from us, and while no one is arguing that it is irrelevant to what happens in Canada, it does not serve Canadians for our news media to follow in suit.

In a recent study, PEW Research Centre analyzed news coverage of the beginning of each of the past four presidential administrations, starting with Clinton, and while the means by which people got their news changed significantly over the years, the numbers certainly draw an interesting picture. “About six-in-ten news stories about Trump’s first 60 days (62%) carried an overall negative assessment of his words or actions. That is about three times more negative than for Obama (20%) and roughly twice that of Bush and Clinton (28% each).” (Mitchell et al, 2017)

While Trump supporters would interpret this as proof of the bias that news media have against him, the left wing will see it simply as an accurate description of the negativity his administration brings. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, I suspect. But what doesn’t reside in the middle ground it this: the opinions that Woody Harrelson or any other celebrities have of Trump are completely and utterly irrelevant to Canada unless that celebrity is Margaret Atwood, Rex Murphy, or possibly Ryan Reynolds (ok, that last one was a bit of a stretch but I can’t wait for Deadpool 2).

It is clear that the only reason Canadian news media would run this story is because their American counterparts did. That is essentially the functional definition of peer pressure but when institutions succumb to it, whether they are corporate or governmental – and news media are not excluded – we are all somehow diminished by it.

References:

Kalvapalle, R. (2017, October 28). Woody Harrelson had to smoke pot to ensure ‘brutal’ dinner with Donald Trump. Retrieved from http://globalnews.ca/news/3830760/woody-harrelson-donald-trump/

Mitchell, A., Gottfried, J., Stocking, G., Matsa, K.E., and Grieco, K. (2017, October 2). Covering President Trump in a Polarized Media Environment 3. A comparison to early coverage of past administrations. Retrieved from http://www.journalism.org/2017/10/02/a-comparison-to-early-coverage-of-past-administrations

 

 

 

 

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