Street Racing Versus Drag Racing: Analyzing the Headlines
By Stu Bond
Can I tell you what really pisses me off about the Street Race vs. Drag Race media hoopla?
The media use so many devices to try to convince us that the stories they are writing about (or selling if you will) are essential information that is very important to us. The strange thing to me is that the media will say "Drag Racers Die in Car Crash," hoping to get the attention needed to make lots of sales, when I believe they would get more attention, create more anxiety, and make more sales if they damned the expense and bought the extra consonants and made the Headline "Street Racers Die in Car Crash."
Here is my reasoning. Look at the essential elements of the first Headline:
Drag Racers. I give this about a one out of ten as a paper seller. Very few people know or care about Drag Racers or Drag Racing, but some, a very, very small number, may and would look at the page to see if it was Force or someone famous involved, or to see if it happened at a track near them.
Die. Woo Hoo, this is a beauty attention getter, but it needs a link to something that directly affects the reader or a unique element to really stop a passer by and make them buy.
Car Crash. Maybe 4 out of ten for getting attention. Surprisingly, lots of people are very interested in car crashes. Was it in a car like theirs? Who was at fault? Can they learn something from the crash that would be of benefit to them?
Now consider the more accurate alternative, "Street Racers Die in Car Crash."
Street Racers. Wow, this is about an eight out of ten for attention. Everyone lives on a street. Did this happen on their street or a street near them? Have the streets gone to the wolves? Can we clean the streets up? Etc. This gets the attention of the vast majority who are concerned about their safety and the safety of their family and friends on the street. This is the key to big sales and street racers strike fear into the hearts of the conservative newspaper buyers and the A-list TV viewers.
And the rest of the elements follow on.
But why don't the media use the "street racer" tag more and get the results they want from their news? I am not sure, but it could be that the news editors have a liking for the tag "Drag Racers" because of the rebel outlaw American Graffiti past, or maybe they are all just stupid letter counters who believe they are serving the boss's interest by using the least amount of space and the shortest word possible to describe something they have no interest in or experience in describing.
Strange thing is, the electronic media do not count letters; they count syllables. Both "street" and "drag" have only one, with street the more evocative and descriptive word, yet the media slavishly follow the press and say "Drag Racing" and "Drag Racers." Once again, go figure, 'eh?
The media choose the words they use to get the attention they crave so they can sell messages to us. This is why they choose the language they do, trying to appear relevant and aware, as if they are the only ones who can be trusted with information important to us. They even decide what is important to us for us; this is why a small story about a regional town will get headlines in that town and nothing in a nearby city. It is all part of the way the media place importance on the stories they choose and the position that story gets on the first or 40th page of the paper, the first or last spot on the TV news.
An editor chooses the story on its merits based on criteria known only to the editor, the media's owner, and their advertising department. But by choosing the focus well, they get you more interested in a story than the story deserves and they make more money from events they then can claim to have some intimate knowledge of or special presence at. This is called the media keyhole. If your story fits the keyhole, it gets a run. If it does not but the media thinks they can profit from it, then it is massaged into the shape of the keyhole, and people will believe the story is more important than it really is.
The media is cross-owned and cross-invested. The media that made the movie benefits from the stories that are going around now because of all the references to the movie the news stories offer. This is why the keyhole model in media works. It's because stories are chosen for a reason and then presented in a method that benefits the media or those who support the media.
When you know this, everything seems shaky for a while, with the truth having no solid foundation. Then suddenly you see through the crap and find out the only truth is in fact the least important story in the news that day.
Was it PT Barnum who said, "It does not matter what they say about you, so long as they are talking about you?" I would suspect his reasoning for this was that he was a large buyer of advertising in regional newspapers and the circus never really got bad ink. LOL
Regards To All.
BA Media Studies
P.S. - Now my head hurts and I am going to watch the news on three channel at once while I read the paper. LOL