Lavin Weekly #54: Thompson, Stewart, Kwong, & Alter
1. Why Do Americans Distrust the Media? The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson Weighs In
Inasmuch as the terms “trust” and “the media” can be quantified, Americans’ trust in mass media has been falling steadily since the new millennium, says Atlantic senior editor Derek Thompson. And although the entire political spectrum appears to display this trend, it is most prominent among middle-aged Republicans. But why don’t we trust the institutions whose very reputations hinge on being trusted? Thompson points to four theories:
It’s the media’s fault: Televised coverage of policy issues has become a sort of “partisan tug-of-war”—a criticism raised by Atlantic national correspondent James Fallows 20 years ago that holds true today.
It’s the elections’ fault: The trust graph craters every four years, right around election time (’04, ’08, ’12, and ’16 all show this pattern). Elections polarize camps on key issues and “erod[e] public faith that ‘the media’ can be fair to both camps.”
It’s modernity’s fault: It’s not just the media we distrust. Faith in other public institutions, like the church, the medical system, banks, and the Supreme Court is waning. This may be due to the “uber-democratization” of American institutions: “Americans have historically put more faith in organizations that hover above the fray and the news cycle.”
It’s easier than ever to find bias-confirming or outrage-inducing news: Increased partisanship of news may lead people to believe that media objectivity doesn’t exist, and thus to decry anything they disagree with as partisanship.
Jump over to The Atlantic for the full article, or check out more from Thompson on his bio page.
2. On Tour in Australia, Kirstine Stewart Speaks out against Sexism
Returning to The Lavin Agency is Kirstine Stewart, fresh off of three years with Twitter as the Head of their Canadian arm, and later VP of North American Media Partnerships. This week, she’s in Australia promoting her new book Our Turn, which argues that women are uniquely primed to jump into leadership roles in 21st-century offices. In The Daily Telegraph, Stewart tells of her unlikely rise from fetching coffee and answering phones as a publishing-house intern to leading 5000 employees as Executive Vice-President of English Services at the CBC (a position she held in her pre-Twitter days). And in The Sydney Morning Herald, she criticizes former Australian PM John Howard, who claimed that workplace gender parity was not possible because women take on greater caring roles. “There's a presumption and expectation in a lot of circles that women are caregivers and it's taken as a done deal,” but Stewart, along with a growing number of female business leaders, are fighting this outdated narrative. Read both interviews with Stewart in the Telegraph and the Herald, or grab a copy of Our Turn wherever you buy your books.
3. Puzzlemaster David Kwong’s New Gig on NBC’s Blindspot
Lavin’s resident puzzle guru and New York Times crossword writer David Kwong has a new television job. Previously, he’s worked as a magic consultant on prestidigitation-heavy films and TV shows such as Now You See Me, The Imitation Game, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, and the upcoming The Magnificent Seven reboot. Now, he’s joined NBC’s Blindspot, where he’ll be helping map out the puzzles hidden in lead character Jane Doe’s tattoos. Asked about the rise of cerebrally driven shows like Blindspot, Kwong replied that “we’re in the middle of a golden age of nerd culture … I think that people are smart and they like feeling smart and they like watching content that engages them and allows them to feel smart. I think a lot of shows and a lot of films are not just handing answers to people, and allowing their audiences to crack the code.” To see Kwong’s puzzles unfold on Blindspot, tune into NBC Wednesdays at 8:00 p.m. EST—season two premiered on September 14. And keep your eyes open for Kwong’s upcoming book Spellbound (May 2017), which looks at bridging the gap between perception and reality to increase our powers of persuasion and influence.
4. Chasing the Dragonite: Adam Alter on Rarity in The New Yorker
Controlling for quality, why do we crave rare objects? This is the question on psychology and marketing speaker Adam Alter’s mind this week in The New Yorker. Alter uses a pair of case studies—obscenely rare bourbon Pappy Van Winkle and augmented-reality gaming phenomenon Pokemon Go—to explore our notions of rarity and value. Pappy Van Winkle is aged twice as long as your average bourbon, and releases 7000 barrels per year to Jim Beam’s seven million. On the resale market, you’d be hard-pressed to get a bottle for less than $4000. Yes, Alter says, people are paying for the status symbol, but “Rarity isn’t all about social signaling…Pappy’s rarity also makes the bourbon taste better, since people often consume rare products in an especially deliberate way.”
In the case of Pokemon Go, it’s not money people are sacrificing in pursuit of rarity, but time. Players plug in for hours (33 minutes/day on average, but one in six players logs more than four hours daily) hoping to snag that elusive creature—a dragonite, for instance. And while catching rare characters does increase your chances of winning in-game battles, “it also engages the relentless machinery of social comparison”: You may have a dragonite, but Timmy next door has three. Alter is a charismatic keynote speaker who knows the ins and outs of psychology, especially from a marketing perspective. Send us an email to book him for your next event or conference.
To hire keynote speakers such as The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson, Our Turn author Kirstine Stewart, magician and puzzle expert David Kwong, and marketing and psychology professor Adam Alter, contact The Lavin Agency, their exclusive speakers bureau.