The Freakonomics blog carried an article yesterday which fired off a bunch of angry neurons in my brain and up and down my spine, giving me a sort of painful twitchy feeling from my ear down to my shoulder. That’s how irritated I was by the Matthew Philips post: New York City Media’s Hurricane Overkill.
I live in London, so I missed the way on which Hurricane Irene, which smashed the hell out of parts of the East Coast of the United States, was reported by the New York media. As an on-the-ground viewer however, Philips tells the story of massive overkill.
We know now that the anticipated major hurricane turned out to be only a fairly substantial windstorm when it finally hit the city. Not a big deal. Not what people were expecting. Certainly not what the news channels were hoping for.
That didn’t stop them trying to prove how on-the-pulse they were however.
Philips says: “… the media kept reporting as if the damage was catastrophic. All three New York City network affiliates preempted their scheduled programming to bring all-day coverage of the storm’s aftermath. By mid-afternoon, reporters had resorted to pointing out sticks and trash in storm drains as evidence of debris.”
The reason it pisses me off so much is because I am reminded of a situation in my business past in which our resident mountain-out-of-molehill specialist managed to consistently prevent work from happening by magnifying the importance of any detail for which he had responsibility or in which he had an interest.
It was the ‘sticks in storm drains’ bit that did it. I recall having five meetings to discuss what could have been covered in one during a website planning discussion, because Mr Over-focus on Irrelevant Details kept blocking progress. In one instance, an entire hour was lost trying to convince him that an overview discussion of the website’s functionality was not the time or place for a discussion over whether the frame lines on the page should be 1pt or hairline; black or charcoal.
I suspect such people could choose to add value if they want to. Even if all they do is say “I don’t have anything to add here; I’m going to go and see where else I can be useful.” It seems unlikely to me that they lack the ability to tell an important detail from a triviality.
But mixing the two up, even if it is a deliberate part of a brilliant agenda, really just makes you look like an idiot.