Why Isn’t the Media More Fair to Nightlife?August 2, 2011 By: Sean Evans
Part of reporting about nightlife means staying on top of other media covering what’s occurring in nightclubs and bars around the country and world. While I end up reading a lot of nightlife blogs, Websites and the like, I also use Google News alerts to help stay atop all of the other stories that may slip through the cracks. My searched term is a generic one — “nightclub” — and in any given week, the fine aggregating folks over at Google send about 100 different stories my way.
Sifting through all of these headlines and summaries, week after week, one thing becomes glaringly obvious: The mainstream media is three times as likely to report on the negative side of nightlife vs. the positive. Of approximately 100 stories I saw this week, 53 were about crime or violence within an establishment — 12 of which involved a death — and another 16 focused on clubs that were either shut down by the authorities or battling to keep their licenses. Fifteen stories were about partying celebrities (apparently it was David Hasselhoff’s 59th birthday, and he had quite the blowout). And only 14 stories positively portrayed either a venue or nightlife in general.
I understand that nightlife is more prone to violence than, say, than the ice-cream industry. Mix people and alcohol in a dark room and transgressions and bad behavior will intensify, despite club owners’ best intentions, precautions and preventative measures. But the media sees any salacious story with a nightlife connection, no matter how threadbare, and blows it up as large as possible. Which further propagates the myth that all nightlife is seedy and dangerous.
There’s a self-fulfilling prophetic mindset among news editors that nightlife is, on some level, a scourge of the community. It’s most evident in the titles of the stories they run. Some actual examples from this week: “Girl Burst Into Tears After Nightclub Incident,” “Group Says Nightclub Area Intimidating,” and “Nightclubs Closed Because of Black Patrons?” I used to work at a major newspaper, so I wholly understand the practice of “if it bleeds, it leads,” and that articles about men being shot in the face inside a venue or a masked man opening fire in front of a club need to be reported and included. But do we really need more pieces entitled “Nightclub Defends It’s ‘Saucy’ Posters”?
Nightlife is a backdrop and setting for a number of things. It’s a haven for the rich and famous to play in. It’s where everyone else goes to blow off steam and feel like they are rich and famous, even if only for a second. It’s where new music can be heard and new artists can be made. It’s where cutting-edge technology demonstratively showcases astounding visuals, wowing guests to the point of leaving mouths agape. It’s where new drinks and liquors gain serious traction. It’s where fashion trends are born. It’s where business deals of all sizes and types are made. It also may happen to be where some trouble happens from time to time, but why overlook all the positive elements this industry is bringing to the table and community?
I’m not suggesting overlooking the rapes, abductions and murders that do, unfortunately, occasionally happen within a club’s doors. But how about some stories about how owners are investing millions in high-tech security systems — ones with cameras more powerful than those in Vegas casinos — that can help police catch the bad apples? Or about how some security and staff members are training alongside police enforcement to learn how to lower the number of violent instances within venues? Or move past crime all together and report on all of the innovative technological advances that are bringing nightlife into the future, such as 3D imagery, rotating stages and LED lighting effects. The point is there are plenty of angles to take, plenty of positive stories that are overlooked consistently.
After all, readers will always chuckle at a story headlined “Mariah Carey Had $1,600 Champagne Delivered to Nightclub Bathroom?” or “A Nightlife Lover’s Guide to the District Attorney Candidates.”