The Author’s Analysis of the Structure of What Happened to the American Press?
by Roy H. Williams
- Framing: The “First Mental Image” given to the reader is the First Amendment to our Constitution framed between two of our most famous Founding Fathers. This patriotic reference aligns my perspective to each side of our polarized society. (Read the First Amendment and you’ll understand why.)
- Details: Always remember, “Specifics are more persuasive than generalities.” The naming of James Madison as the writer of the First Amendment (and indeed all the Bill of Rights,) along with naming the newspaper owned by Benjamin Franklin, (the Pennsylvania Gazette,) –– then giving the reader of a delightful tidbit they probably didn’t know –– that it was “the most popular paper in the 13 colonies,” allows me to present this delicate subject with (1.) the credibility of a detailed knowledge of history, and (2.) a reasonably objective perspective. And all of this was done in the opening sentence of just 34 words. It also accomplishes the first half of our primary rule of persuasion: “Open Big. Close Big.”
- The next two sentences focus our attention on another subject about which both sides of our polarized society will agree, “the internet, an unregulated realm where irresponsible people are free to spray false reports, fabricated data, and doctored photos across our society like a flamethrower washing over a field of dry grass.” “Unregulated, false, fabricated, doctored,” and “flamethower” are important mental images to introduce at this time, because we are about to demonstrate that Television and Radio newscasts have, during our lifetime, become another “unregulated realm.” To mention the possibility that regulations are sometimes good things to have would have been disastrous if we had introduced that idea without first illustrating the dangerous chaos that has been created on the internet by not having them.
- “Presto, the world is on fire.” On July 6, 2020 – the publication date of this Monday Morning Memo – during a time of (1.) riots in the streets due to the killing of black people by policemen, (2.) spiraling out-of-control Covid-19, and (3.) a looming economic meltdown, it is a reasonable mental image. The reader will likely think, “Yes, the world is on fire.” We have achieved alignment with the reader by the 5th sentence in our essay. It is now time to deepen that alignment with a 6th sentence:
- “I believe that people are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.”
- Begin delivering verifiable data in a way that is both brief and interesting.
- Be sure to blame both political parties for the problem. The 11th sentence of our essay reads, “For most of the 20th century, America had safeguards that made television and radio news reliable, but in the 9 years between 1987, the 7th year of the Reagan presidency, and 1996, the 4th year of the Clinton presidency, those safeguards were quietly dismantled.
- Explain the purpose of the Fairness Doctrine, then demonstrate Fairness by articulating the opposing viewpoints. “Broadcasters hated the Fairness Doctrine, of course, because it was a pain in the ass.” And, “In 1987, Edward O. Fritts, president of the National Assn. of Broadcasters, argued that “broadcasters believe in fairness” and that the Fairness Doctrine was “unconstitutional and an infringement on free speech. It is an intrusion into broadcasters’ journalistic judgment.”
- Point out the unintended consequences of the elimination of the Fairness Doctrine. “TV and radio stations were now free to slant the news as aggressively as they wanted.”
- Explain the history and purpose of broadcast ownership limits.
- Point out the unintended consequences of the elimination of those limits. “Bingo… If you could put together enough money, you could now control the news. American newscasters were no longer required to serve the public interest, or to present both sides of an issue, or even to tell the truth.”
- Make everyone understand the recent development of this crisis of untruth. “So for the past 18 years we’ve been surrounded by flamethrowers on every side.”
- Don’t state a conclusion with which you want them to agree.
Lead the reader to their own conclusion.
- Close Big. “I’m sure glad it hasn’t resulted in a polarized population.”
The majority of people who read that final sentence will laugh at the absurdity of it and say to themselves, “but it very obviously HAS resulted in a polarized population.”
Mission Accomplished. 🙂
– Roy H. Williams