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Truth or Consequences

By February 24, 2017 No Comments

Robert Stephens | February 2, 2017

This week we consider a coughing billboard, Blade Runner’s 35-year-old unanswered question, some good news for Canada’s legacy media, and the bad news about fake news. Read on …

Butt out

Swedish pharmacy Apotek Hjärtat has launched a campaign designed to shame smokers into quitting.

One problem. The ad is so obnoxious that it invites only scorn and laughter from those it seeks to influence.

The outdoor digital billboard is connected to smoke detectors. When anyone nearby puffs on a cigarette, the on-screen actor goes into a coughing fit.

The moral chauvinism of the ad works against it. It probably won’t convince many smokers to kick the habit.

But it’s good for a chuckle. Take a look.

Blade Runner – truth will out?

For us, it will be the biggest movie event of the year. Blade Runner 2049, the long-awaited sequel to the 1982 cult classic, will be in theatres on October 6.

Two Canadians are central to the film – Ryan Gosling stars as the new blade runner, and Denis Villeneuve directs. Harrison Ford returns in the role of a much older Rick Deckard. Ridley Scott, the original director, is executive producer.

The 1982 film left audiences with a question that has endured for the past 35 years: Is Deckard, the ex-cop who hunts down and ‘retires’ replicants, himself a replicant? All three versions of the film (including the theatrical, director’s cut, and The Final Cut) offered hints, but never a definitive answer.

Scott has long maintained that, yes, the character is an android. He told Yahoo in 2015, “Of course he’s a bloody replicant! He’s going to have to admit it.” 

Ford, on the other hand, has said that he thinks Deckard is a human, and that this was a subject he debated with Scott for a long time.  “That was the main area of contention between Ridley and myself at the time. I thought the audience deserved one human being on the screen that they could establish an emotional relationship with,” Ford said at an American Film Institute event in 2013.

Director Denis Villeneuve has promised he will “take care” of the mystery. Does that mean the matter will be resolved, or the ambiguity will be preserved?




Lessons for the media

A new Canadian study confirms that young people no longer look to traditional media as their first source of news and information. Instead, they are alerted to news via Facebook posts, Twitter shares, and other social media.

There is a silver lining for the legacy outlets, however. The research also discovered that once youth find something interesting on social media, they will then seek further information from mainstream sources.

Jessica Thom, a Ryerson University assistant professor and the author of the research, examined the news consumption patterns of youth aged 18-25 through focus groups, interviews,and online diary-keeping. Her conclusion is that, for this group, social media is a gateway to mainstream media.

 “They’re really reading the trending topics; they’re reading the title of the article that their friend has posted or shared,” Thom said in an interview published by the Ryerson Journalism Research Centre. “They’re really getting kind of the bite-sized pieces of news from their social media, and then they either click on that article or they search that title and they find out more information through search engines.”

Traditional outlets need to understand this gateway system, and how to use it effectively. It will be critically important as well for traditional print and broadcast organizations to become known brands earlier in young people’s lives so “it becomes more of a habit to use them,” said Thom.

The study also found the younger generation understands that reading the news is a key part of being an informed citizen and participating in a democratic society.

But with fake news (deliberate hoaxes) and faux news (opinion pretending to be news) on the rise, people are becoming increasingly cynical about the truthfulness of the media.


Bad news 

     *  Only 32% of Americans say they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media – the lowest level ever recorded since Gallup began tracking this in 1972 (Gallup)

     *  64% of U.S. adults say fake news has sowed a great deal of confusion over current issues and events. (Pew Research Center)

     *  Google suspended more than 1,300 accounts last year for tabloid cloaking – “a new type of scammer that tries to game our system by pretending to be news.” (Google)

     *  People now view the media as part of the elite (Edelman Trust Barometer)

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