By Chuck Woodbury
CONTINUED FROM RVTRAVEL NEWSLETTER ISSUE 982
Like most of you, I am sad about the violence at our nation’s capitol on Wednesday. But, no, I am more than sad. I am disgusted. It’s now noon Friday. I have been so upset by what happened that I have been unable to write until now.
I spent virtually all day Wednesday watching and reading the news. And I know many of you did, too, as traffic at RVtravel.com was half of normal. It picked up a little on Thursday, but was still way down.
The terrible incident was the result of an ongoing campaign of misinformation, gladly promoted by news media and in social media because it attracted big audiences and lots of dollars.
Those of you who know how the media works today understand that the easiest way to make money is to be controversial. “Fair and Balanced” is a joke: few online media outlets, right or left, even try to be unbiased anymore because it’s far easier to make tons of money by lying, bending the truth or exaggerating.
I can tell you, with my above-average writing skills, if I were unethical I could triple my income by sensationalizing what we publish on this website. It would be so easy! I’d just rag on Marcus Lemonis over and over about his business practices – that always attracts big traffic!
When we go back through our traffic statistics, the topics where we stuck our necks out drew ten times the views (views = $$$) of tamer topics. Before the Internet, the slogan “If it bleeds it leads” was the mantra of many news outlets, especially local television. “Good News” stories were always shown at the end of the program.
We recently introduced a feature in our Sunday newsletter called “Good News.” And guess how popular it is? It’s not! Nobody wants to read good news. We post it anyway. If I wanted to make big money I wouldn’t mess with “good news.” I’d just make up an article with this headline: “Rat bites woman as she sits on her RV’s toilet.”
Actually, I will write such a fake story for you right now to show you how convincing a 100% fake story can be. You can read it here. The fake story I will write will be about how the woman left her RV’s black tank valve open and a sewer rat climbed up through the hose into the holding tank and then somehow got into the toilet bowl. The story will further state that the woman sat on the pot and then “ouch!” – the rat took a big old bite of her butt! You know me well enough to know I would never write such a story (except for my fake story here). But I am telling you, unethical, money-hungry publishers do it all the time.
Remember the story of the guy who put his Winnebago on cruise control so he could go into the back of the RV to make coffee, and the RV crashed, and then he sued Winnebago and won $1,750,000? That now-urban myth has been viewed millions of times over a decade – but it’s 100% fake!
Fox News will never say, “You know, we think Joe Biden is a decent guy and we should give him a chance.” It would lose half its audience and couldn’t continue to pay its hosts millions of dollars a year.
Rush Limbaugh is quoted as saying this: “Never be ‘down the middle’ on anything. Nothing is worse for the ratings than ‘well, on the other hand,’ or ‘both sides have a point.’ If you are against something, be against it 100%. Anyone who feels other than you do on the issue is wrong.”
Rush would be out of business if he had a change of heart and quit bashing Biden and his cronies. The same is true for other talk show hosts, websites, cable TV channels, and for social media stars. This goes for liberal and conservative media.
As a purveyor of fake news you take your stand, promote lies and conspiracy theories as often as possible, and watch your readership and income soar. After 20 years of publishing online, I know this principle well, and I know that unethical publishers can make huge incomes spewing lies and even hate. And just like with advertising, the more times a message is delivered, the more people believe it. Is Tide really the best detergent? Some people think so because commercial after commercial tells them so. And one day, someone who has heard the message 50 times believes it without question — “Yes, Tide is better!” The same goes for political messages.
I will receive angry mail over what I write here. I will be called every name in the book. Some will write, “I read this newsletter to read about RVing! This does not belong here!” Well, I agree that most of what we write here SHOULD be about RVing (and that is what we do 99% of the time). But sometimes I feel strongly about something and choose to write about it. Most readers are fine with this.
After reading this essay, dozens of readers will write me and say they unsubscribing. “I will never read another thing you write.” But I can tell you, most will return anyway out of curiosity.
But I’m not stupid when I write something that I know will stir the pot and cost this website subscribers. When I write honestly and without fear of losing a hundred or even a thousand readers, open-minded readers appreciate this website even more. We almost always end up gaining more subscribers than we lose. Some of those who appreciate our honesty will be motivated to contribute financially to our efforts because we dare to take a stand, unlike 99% of all other RV websites which are so scared of offending an advertiser that they keep their mouths shut!
For the record, only a small part of our income comes from advertising. Every week, more readers support us financially, which provides our financial foundation. So I don’t tell our writers to avoid writing something that might offend a particular manufacturer or other RV-related business. “No, write honestly,” I say.
I hope the following happens in 2021: I hope the pandemic ends and our lives can return to normal. I hope all those people who lost their jobs due to no fault of their own will get them back. And I hope that our elected officials tone down their rhetoric. As a proud member of the news media for 40 years, I am thankful that our incoming president views the media of vital importance to a democracy and not as its enemy. Take a Journalism 1A course at your local community college and you will understand.
Your comments welcome. But keep them civil. I reserve the right to remove rants or those that are disrespectful.