Stinkhorns and Bilbys – Can we stop the bad press?

It seems that bad news is at every turn. I spent much of November trying to avert my eyes, but the truth is the “media,” that thing that seeps into our psyche whether we choose to look or not, seems hell-bent on making mulch of my mirth.

Like many families, Steve and I start each day by reading the paper. His “paper” is delivered to the driveway by covered wagon each morning, while mine has a power cord and requires an occasional reboot, but our news is the same. This morning, we were treated to reports that our governor was predicting fiscal “Armageddon” by noon, stories of plane crashes, and news that Chicago politicians are corrupt. (OK, that last one may not be news, but you get the point.) Joblessness is up, housing prices are down, and just in case we missed the memo, we were treated to more parallels between our current hijinks and 1930.

I am ready for some stories about fuzzy bunnies and rainbows, already!

The media is not to blame for the news itself, but I do think they thrive on stoking the fire. Delirium and panic cut both ways. In 2005, it was the panic associated with home buying. Act now or that $400,000 home will cost you $1.7 million by Thursday. Today, we are playing the new album cut called “We’re all going to starve.” Well, we aren’t, but with all the stations giving it air time, it is hard to keep a hop in one’s step. I give it a three; it’s got a catchy beat, but it’s really hard to dance to. (Editor’s note: Reference to American Bandstand is a popular blogger carbon dating method.)

I am going to be moderating a couple of panel discussions in January at the Inman News Real Estate Connect conference. I am particularly looking forward to my role because having gone from pre-conference speaker to main conference speaker to moderator, I fear I have peaked. I suspect their next event will see me in charge of the coffee trolley.

One of the sessions is titled “Breaking the News: How to Deal with the Media During a Downturn.” Specifically, the conference program reads, “Can agents use social media to turn bad press around?” Beats me. I’m just the moderator. But I will report back. I do know first-hand, though, that we live in an echo chamber, and optimism like negativity does resonate.

So, this morning I briefly put down my paper to glance at Steve’s. These days you have to dig deep to find that happy place, and I was hoping to find mine in the Quest section. This is the weekly insert that dares to go where the Business section cannot. Like the casino gives Keno players crayons so they don’t hurt themselves, Quest gives fun science facts without driving me straight to the Tylenol. This morning I played “match the photos with the names,” a game in which I had to properly attach the names of a “diverse collection of organisms” with their photos. The confused meganola? I was certain this was someone in the Treasury Department, but it turns out it is a moth. The candle snuff I learned is not the code name for Wall Street but a fungus that grows out of rotting deciduous wood. Maybe it is Wall Street after all. What about the Stinkhorn? That would be my 401k. So this was not turning out to be the pick-me-up I was searching for — until I discovered the Bilby. The picture was of a cute little marsupial with big, playful ears. Then came the description. The name comes from an Aboriginal word meaning “long-nosed rat.”

I think I am moving on to the Food section.


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