History or Entertainment? Which comes first, Truth or Compelling Content?

The only way I can state this properly is “I have a feeling of being under duress”.  Duress caused by straddling life with one foot in each world I work in.  The world of History (Exploration, Discovery, Recovery and Documentation) and Entertainment (TV, TV Series, and Mass Media in general).

In one world everything is about getting the facts straight, documented and presented in a logical, chronological and unwavering manner.  In another world, it is not about any of those things, but only about “continual consumption” of an entertainment product.  Personally, my view of entertainment is “it is okay to entertain, as long as you give back to the viewers or audience helpful information, wisdom, understanding or something they can apply in their own lives; or the pursuit of their own passions”. Then it is at the very least a two way exchange.

Media the the driver of a widened and increased audience, but in a society increasingly lost and failing, where does honesty and truth fit in?

For example, as a historian and explorer, if I was to go out and find (lets say for illustrative purposes) the fossilized remains of a T-Rex and this particular T-Rex has a human (not caveman, not even Neanderthal) locked in it’s jaws.  At the moment of conflict, these two – in the middle of the throws of a death struggle- were caught in a cataclysmic event which forever memorialized them in stone by turning them into fossils.

Of course, you fully understand this would be a highly controversial find.  Much of the world believes we evolved from Dinosaurs and man and dinosaur did not coexists in the same time period.  But, here in front of eyes, is the living proof of such.  It would be monumental and in many ways it would be very educational and enlightening.

Now comes the conflict and I am not talking about the guaranteed religious and science conflict of a find such as this, but the history versus entertainment conflict.

Here is the set up for the conflict.  From a TV standpoint the finding of such a “smoking gun” artifact is off the charts, both in engagement and entertainment value.  However from an entertainment value, Producers don’t want the reveal and answer to a question which has been around for ages, i.e., “Did man evolve? Did man coexists with the dinosaurs”.  Entertainment demands you never rush to the reveal.  Why?  Entertainment demands that all viewers stay engaged as long as possible, meaning “evolutionists stay engaged”, “creationists stay engaged” “alien theorists stay engaged” and even the “conspiracy theorists” must stay engaged until the very last minute (no one wants to lose any audience share for any reason).

So there is NO path to definitive answers, since definitive answers will surely “shorten” the entertainment value and the entertainment lifespan and cause viewers to drop like a rock.  Here is the catch, and yes there is always a catch.  HOWEVER, TV is the platform to get millions upon millions engaged, because unfortunately people get their news (and their education and beliefs these days) from their set top boxes.

Now see the issue?  Play the game, reach more people – albeit painfully, with incredible rules, regulations, conditions, rights to edit, re-edit and even edit to make the end result be different from the findings.  Gain for following the “entertainment not answers” path?  Millions of viewers!  Pain for following the “factual history’ (regardless where it takes the story) path?  Limited air-time, or actually no air-time at all, because you “are not a team player”!  These are real daily scenarios in the trenches where history and entertainment collide.

So here are my questions for you:

1.  Which path would you choose?

2.  Which path would you choose, knowing one usually is at the expense of the other?

3.  Which is the right thing to do?

4.  Which is the smart thing to do?

5.  Which will have the most impact on people?

6.  Which will have the most impact on history?

7.  Which could you live with at the end of the day? or the end of your life?

And finally, with the goggles of “How can we have a productive and truthful future, if all our history is a lie?” on your face – looking out at the world and the people who depend on you (fans, family, fellows or otherwise), what decision would you make.

Now you understand the conflict and the duress.  How do you feel?  What say you?

Commander “currently conflicted”

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