Is "Fake News" Real? A Personal Journey with the Media
I remember the first time the media covered anything I did. 9/11 had only happened a couple of hours earlier and I was contemplating the future like so many others around the globe. I picked up my lap top and wrote an article about the future of race relations. The Winnipeg Free Press published it and so the writer in me was born.
Since then, I have had a lot of experience with the media. They've covered my journey through this weird little life of mine and after dozens of stories I will no longer speak to the media unless in a live setting. My reasoning for this decision can be found in the treatment of stories about me or my projects. Here are the highlights:
I run an event called, Fear. It's an extreme Halloween experience. We put some people through the wringer and they come out on the other side just fine. We've had ten's of thousands through the games with only minor injuries. We have a death and injury waiver and we make sure that we have first aid and trained personnel on hand, just like at sporting events or anything else with what society perceives to be a moderate level of acceptable risk.
In 2018, a guy decided to down a Mickey in the parking lot right before walking in. As a result, he passed out with a chain around his neck. Our staff acted quickly and even called nurses downstairs, which my staff were aware had been in the lounge. Within minutes we had the guy on his side, were tending to him and called an ambulance. His friends called him a "professional drinker" and laughed the entire way through before going to the media and putting us on blast. The media spent 45 minutes with me going through the entire experience and posted about 30 seconds of footage that made me look like the mean rich (ha) event promoter.
The next day, a woman named Kristen Single/Hooper (more on her later) who didn't like how stupid she felt after getting out of one of our coffin escapes complained to my mom (who worked the door) and I about how hard the game was. To put the matter to rest, I offered her free tickets for another experience, which she accepted after at least about an hour of conversation. During said conversation she removed her hand from her hoodie several times, flailed her arms, hugged her boyfriend, shook my hand and opened a heavy door. The next day, she sent me a lengthy email.
Then, out of the blue, she "hurt her wrist" in our coffin and needed surgery ... days later. The media didn't confirm with a doctor, didn't ask if she could prove that she hurt her arm at Fear ... nothing. They just took her at her word and put us on blast again. She could have just as easily slipped and fallen or slammed her arm in a fridge. Later, she would brag to people that she didn't actually need surgery. Oh yeah, a real winner!
2. TRIP TO SPACE
I once entered an Axe Body Spray contest to go to space. The media coverage was great but shortly after entering, I discovered the contest was rigged. With clear evidence, I went back to the media and received the cold shoulder. The next week, I looked through their advertising and—what a shocker—Axe and the subsidiary companies were advertising heavily. This is one of many experiences I've had where a reporter has told me off the record that they would love to print a story but they can't jeopardize ad dollars; bought and paid for news!
3. FOR SAFETY
Back in the day, I ran a company that produced events for teens. We were always safety focused. I had given a local rapper the chance to open for an obscure Canadian rapper out of Toronto.
However, this idiot kid decided to release a diss track calling out all of the gangs in the city.
In response, gang members who bitterly hated each other decided to set aside their differences for a single night and make a statement by attacking this local rapper on my stage.
Obviously, I couldn't put 5000 kids in harm's way so I cancelled his performance. He and his mother went to the media and it was FRONT PAGE NEWS! That's right. But nothing about safety. They posted that I had taken away his big shot (which it wasn't) and that I was letting the gangs win (which I also wasn't).
4. KRISTEN HOOPER/SINGLE
Remember, our lovely contestant from the coffin escape at Fear?
Well, turns out she's at best a undiagnosed Munchausen sufferer or at worst, she's just a straight up liar. This woman is starved for media attention.
She faked injuries and abuse by her co-workers at a past job, lied about celebrity relationships and events she "produced" at local venues, was caught red handed lying about a daycare injuring her kids, her trailer burnt down mysteriously, and now she's triggered this blog by getting on the news because her kid found a meth needle in her elevator.
To be clear, every single story she's been featured in is presented with circumstantial evidence. She has nothing to back up her word but the media keep putting her on air. Why would I ever want to be a part of a machine that puts me on a level playing field with this lying snake? She's an attention whore ... and yes, I am aware of the backlash I'll get for once again using that word but, oh well. It just means she's venal so you can relax.
5. MORE SAFETY
Back to the teen events for a second. I held an event at a local venue that was ill prepared to deal with the huge crowds we brought. It was cold outside (-48) and we had made a promise to parents that if their kid was allowed in the doors, that meant they would be guaranteed entry. We shut down entry after we filled a huge hallway. I then went onto run the event and would come to learn that 3 critical problems came up.
The first, the owners of the venue filled the hallway again putting the venue waaaay over capacity. Second, they only had one security guard on when our agreement said twelve. To address this, they put security shirts on a janitor, an old man who was their cook, and a few other staff who definitely weren't security. Third, they were overwhelmed and coat check was overrun when their ticketing system broke down. To top it off, I had to deal with a father who slapped a 14 year old girl's ass.
Now, my fault for working with an ill prepared venue. Agreed. However, I had no way of knowing this would be their first big event and that they were such money hungry scumbags.
That POS father and the venue owners went to the media to call us out. Despite hundreds of safe events and all of our community work, they again took someone's word and did their damage. In fact, this was my first media scrum in the lobby of the building I lived in. I was in such disbelief that I wasn't sure it was real. I responded poorly because I thought it was an elaborate prank or a joke. Boy, did I get a crash course in click-bait on this occasion.
6. ME VS THE MAYOR
Out of that incident came a front page battle between myself and the Mayor of Winnipeg. I had worked on this team twice and until this point I considered the Mayor a friend. He tucked his tail between his legs and let his staff call me to remove his endorsement of our events. Later, he said to me, "You needed to pull my endorsement from your website because once the media get ahold of a story like this they'll do anything to push a negative narrative." How's that for truth in politics?
7. SPEAKING OF POLITICS ...
I worked for the Obama campaign in 2008. It was a historic campaign for many reasons and in this case the media took my word for it instead of someone else's. Media back home in Winnipeg were blowing up my phone asking for quotes, stories and behind the scenes access. Only one reporter asked for verification from the campaign that I was involved. ONE! That's why he got the lengthy interview and no one else did.
8. MORE POLITICS ...
In 2016, I was called out for some tweets while running for office. Here's the full blog about it. I'm not going to belabor this point as most of you know the story, but the takeaways here are that the media ran with the negative irrational side of the story and NO ONE reported the truth. Then, in a live environment, when I made rational points they accused me of using the publicity to promote a book I wrote that I hadn't thought about in years. There was no winning in this forum. When the first round of negativity wore off, they just came up with something else.
LET'S PUT A BOW ON THIS
This is not to say that I haven't had positive press. I've come to learn there are 2 types of reporting; light fluffy pieces used to fill pages with positivity that don't matter much (except to have a talking point later that they do indeed print positive stories) and then the burn them at the stake media. I've had plenty of positive press about club openings, my engagement, book releases, petitions, etc. but when it matters, the media will try to destroy you as swiftly and harshly as possible. Here's the worst part ... IT'S OUR FAULT!
We crave these stories and don't ask them to investigate. The click-bait love is real! We, the people, drive the media to do the things we do because we want the lowlights and we want them now! Damn the truth, damn the circumstance, damn the context. As long as we can see someone sweat under those lights, we get our fix. The 24 hour news cycle needs fuel.
I don't believe in fake news. I believe rather, in skewed news. Reporters and media outlets are simply buildings full of people with opinions and those opinions creep into stories with subtlety. All of a sudden, we're believing the last thing we saw and our minds are changed when we see something new. It's a gross cycle in society that needs to be broken. We are letting people form the narrative of our communities simply because they can write well.
I don't believe anything in the news anymore because reporters continue to interview idiots like Kristen, push stories without research, and worst of all ... they dig until they can find something that they can slant in a negative way. When they can't find anything, they make shit up.
The reason I write this is to hopefully shine a spotlight on how evil the system is in 2020. Fact check everything you read and hear. If the evidence is circumstantial then dismiss it until someone gives you real evidence. That's the only way to form intelligent thoughts about a subject.