Bob Tamasy: The Megaphone Effect

Monday, February 03, 2014 - by Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy

We don’t see them as much anymore, but over the years cheerleaders have often used megaphones to amplify their voices for cheering on the home team. Megaphones are still employed today for various purposes, including crowd control and mass communication. Most are portable and electronic to enhance vocal amplification, but their purpose remains the same – to ensure the message is heard.

There’s another kind of “megaphone effect” going on today, although it has nothing to do with hand-held, cone-shaped voice magnifiers. It’s the megaphone of mass media.

Recent weeks have provided a good example. As cold weather swept across most of the country, especially the Midwest and Northeast, phrases like “Polar Vortex” and “Arctic Express” echoed from every news source. We heard from nearly everyone, except maybe Chicken Little proclaiming the sky is falling. A visitor from another planet could easily have concluded it’s never snowed before.

Of course it has, and extreme low temperatures have been recorded before, but not trumpeted to the tune of today’s mass media megaphone. For instance, some of us can remember winter 1979, when multiple blizzards afflicted many Northern states and much of the nation was in deep freeze. Living in Ohio, I recall the temperature remained far below the freezing mark for at least 30 days straight. Heating our homes became a concern. Natural gas shortages were predicted, causing parents of young families – as were my wife and I at the time – to fret over how to keep our children warm.

That was the year – coincidentally also in January – when the acclaimed mini-series “Roots” was aired over eight successive evenings. One reason that excellent show had such high viewership, ranked for many years at the top all-time for a mini-series, was it was so cold in much of the United States millions of people had nothing else to do but watch it.

The difference between that winter 35 years ago and today? We didn’t have incessant, 24/7 news media coverage and the Internet. All we knew was it was very cold, very snowy, and someday – as always – it would start getting warmer again as spring followed winter. We didn’t have CNN, Al Roker and the Weather Channel to make us fear we wouldn’t live to see the thaw.

This mass media megaphone isn’t confined only to weather reporting. If there’s ever a scandal, whether it be the politically motivated closing of a major commuter bridge; a professional athlete making ill-advised, outlandish comments immediately after a game; or some pseudo-celebrity offering personal opinions that grate against sensibilities of the self-appointed thought police, we never hear the end of it.

News is shouted, reiterated, shouted again, repeated and rehashed until the intended message reverberates in our sleep. Even if what’s said isn’t true, we hear it so much it starts sounding that way. And, I believe, that’s not by accident. Megaphones cut through the noise with volume and clarity. They’re used for a reason.

So what do we do, shout back? Do we use bigger, more sophisticated megaphones? I think just the opposite. The book of Proverbs has much to say about how we communicate, and advises being careful and economical with the words we express:

“Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips” (Proverbs 4:24).

“When there are many words, transgression is not avoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19).

“A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of fools blurts out folly” (Proverbs 12:23).

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).

“Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue” (Proverbs 17:28).

“A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions” (Proverbs 18:2).

There are many other examples, but you get the idea. It’s good advice, well worth following, whether you’re in the media or not.

---

Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at btamasy@comcast.net.



Good Shepherd Luthern Church Has Advent Services Concerts

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church will host two concerts at their Wednesday Advent Services. The Chattanooga Girls Choir will be performing on Wednesday, Dec. 3, at 6:30 p.m. Jericho Brass will give their annual concert at the church on Wednesday, Dec. 10, at 6:30 p.m.   The church is at 822 Belvoir Ave. in East Ridge.  For more information call the church at 629-4661. (click for more)

Bob Tamasy: Lessons From An Old Book

Recently I was thinking – as is my habit, and also the title of this blog – about people that talk about how antiquated and irrelevant they perceive the Bible to be. It’s a thousands-of-years-old book, they say, written and compiled in a totally different time, culture and environment. It no longer relates to contemporary living, they contend. That’s interesting, because many ... (click for more)

Kiser Takes Witness Stand For First Time; Says He Did Not Kill Deputy Donald Bond

Marlon Duane Kiser took the witness stand at his post-conviction hearing on Tuesday to declare that he did not kill Deputy Donald Bond, who was gunned down at a produce stand in East Brainerd 13 years ago. Kiser had not opted to go on the stand when he was convicted by a Nashville jury and given the death penalty in 2003. He said he believes it was Mike Chattin, the man he ... (click for more)

Courtney Godwin, 25, Was Victim In Monday Night Fire In Hixson

Chattanooga firefighters battled a fully-involved structure fire in Hixson Monday night, and the incident involved at least one fatality.  Dr. Steve Cogswell with the Hamilton County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the victim as Courtney D. Godwin, 25. Dr. Cogswell said Ms. Godwin died from smoke inhalation.   The first call to 911 Communications was received ... (click for more)

Chattanooga State Faculty Has No Business Being Involved In Hiring Decisions

This letter will hopefully bring some clarity to the recent situation created by the faculty of Chattanooga State Community College. It is based upon my tenure as a member of the faculty at Chattanooga State Technical Institute, the transformation to Chattanooga State Community College, and my service as the financial and administrative officer at Chattanooga State until my retirement ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: A Grand Thanksgiving Feast

I’m not really sure how it all came about but a few days before Thanksgiving last year, what was usually a crowded table had dwindled down to just Mother, Aunt Martha and me. Just the idea of getting dressed up made both of them tired, which happens when you are 89 and 87, respectively, and the thought of preparing the traditional feast brought only further groans so I announced ... (click for more)