A rather vigorous session on ABC talkback radio this morning highlighted for me the perils of not telling the full story.
Apparently (I didn’t hear the whole thing) a caller made an observation, something to the effect that ‘greedy baby boomers’ benefited from free education and cheap housing, and are now making life tough for the following generations because they’ve locked up all the resources and refuse to share.
This sparked angry responses from an hour’s worth of callers – all in their sixties or older – calling the comment, essentially, a load of rot. “We worked hard seven days a week, and now I’m on a pension and can’t afford groceries”, and reports to that effect.
If you relied on the callers’ stories alone you would conclude that in light of the evidence the initial caller was indeed talking rot, and that baby boomers as a whole were and are doing it tough, so please everyone stop picking on them.
But how many of those baby boomers who did prosper from free education and cheap housing – and are now rolling in it – phoned in to voice their view? I didn’t hear any. So not only did we hear from an unrepresentative sample of callers, no effort was made to explore the deeper issue, namely that for every battling pensioner of today is an astute contemporary who was clever enough to take advantage of the offerings of the day, and build a small personal fortune which they then chose not to share – not only with subsequent generations, but with their less-lucky fellow baby boomers.
Not to properly think through a complex issue is counter productive; a waste of time, even. Yet we continually hear from angry lobbyists with a point to make at the expense of informed explanation and analysis of data.
A wealthy baby boomer isn’t likely to call the radio station and say, “I did fantastically well! You should see my Jacuzzi. Oh, and my accountant says I can claim the cost of this call because my company owns the phone.”
Serious stories about communication
told in a silly voice.
I dig a little deeper than most comms folk. From science at university, to a cold-and-wet career as a commercial diver, to working underground, and for the past 15 years as a communicator-at-large, I've had my fair share of weird experiences in all sorts of situations. It's given me a fair-to-middling grounding in all things explanatory.