A World Of Pure Speculation: Or How To Get A Bunch Of Clicks And Engagement On A Slow News Day

Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure speculation. Take a look and you’ll see into your imagination… – Willy “RokDeez” Wonka

We’ll begin with a spin…

Zach LaVine wants out of Chicago. How could he possibly be happy in the organization that traded for him, made him the center piece of their team, built around him, supported him through his injuries, and can offer him the most amount of money this summer in free agency? He’s definitely unhappy there.

If you want a view of paradise simply look around and view it…

I’m sure LaVine would love to play in Los Angeles. It’s the center of the known universe, for crying out loud, and soooo close to home for him, how could he not? He must want to play 3rd fiddle to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who among us wouldn’t?

Anything you want to, do it. Wanna change the world? There’s nothing to it…

If Zach wants to play in LA, then let’s make sure he gets there. It’ll take a three team trade because salaries and stuff. I know! The Knicks obviously need to rebuild because they missed the playoffs, let’s get them involved!

The Lakers are done with Russell Westbrook, the Knicks must regret the acquisitions of Julius Randle and Evan Fournier, and LaVine wants out of Chicago. Sprinkle in some future draft picks, and I’m sure we can find a trade that works.

Travelling in the world of my creation. What we’ll see will defy explanation…

There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination. Living there you’ll be free if you truly wish to be…

Obviously, this is the weak trade hypothetical perpetrated by ESPN a few weeks ago, involving Zach LaVine going to the Lakers in a sign-and-trade deal. I wasn’t going to touch it because it was PURE SPECULATION, and who am I to judge (too harshly) another outlets content. My entire blogging career has been based on my personal experience as a fan of the Chicago Bulls, and I freely and openly speculate on all things Bulls. But there is a real difference between my little blog and ESPN, and this difference speaks to a deeper problem that is rampant in the 24/7 “News” Business as a whole.

Whether it’s ESPN, CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News, all of these 24/7 “News” Channels suffer from Lack-of-content-itis. It’s a serious disease that effects all creators of content, but unlike yours truly, who can just not post a blog until something interesting happens, or the muses move me, 24/7 “News” channels MUST air some thing. This generally leads to several other serious diseases like Opinion-disguised-as-fact, Mass-dissemination-of-bogus-internet-theories, and the disease that we are talking about today, Speculation-To-Generate-Content-And-Engagement.

Speculation-to-generate-content-and-engagement is ESPN’s bread and butter. It works like this: Sometime during a particularly drab news day, usually during a morning show, one of ESPN’s talking heads or guest “experts” will introduce a wild piece of speculation that generates fodder for the rest of the day/week/month/year.

If you look at the hypothetical LaVine trade offer, you’ll notice that the three teams involved all reside in what are traditionally believed to be three largest media markets in the US: LA, New York, and Chicago. By involving the major teams in these three cities, ESPN is sure to engage a large number of fans. The Lakers, Knicks, and Bulls are all international brands, so not only are you engaging a large number of local (i.e. US) fans, they’ve also managed to reach fans all around the globe.

It doesn’t matter that the trade is PURE SPECULATION, only that it reaches the most amount of people possible. This is what 24/7 “News” Outlets run off of. It doesn’t matter what their political views are, or if they only cover sports, they need the “engagement” to exist, and they will stoop to sensationalism to survive.

Like I said, I’m not trying to judge them too harshly, in this case it is only sports, and lord knows, I’ve been guilty of it too (who can forget my absolutely-factual-based-on-true-life-in-the-style-of-Shakespeare one act play recounting Bobby Portis’s contract extension?), but it’s important to be aware, if you aren’t already, what the NBA Offseason can bring.

Speculation-to-generate-content-and-engagement is a real thing in the 24/7 news cycle. It allows every talking head on a channel to voice their opinion, or put their spin, on the subject, which translates to several hours of content during a slow news day. Experts can be called in to give their take on the issue, which leads to more hours filled. And all of that content generates “engagement” for ESPN, or whichever channel is caught up in Speculation-to-generate-content-and-engagement.

If the speculation generates enough engagement, “News” channels will run with it for weeks, continuously coming back to the subject with a new spin, or update, “______ got a chance to speak with Zach LaVine this weekend, and you’ll never believe what the Bulls star had to say about the possibility of playing with LeBron in LA. That and more when we come back from break.”

It’s a script that almost writes itself.

Full disclosure, I AM a member of the media in my real life job, and I DO NOT support the anti-media propaganda that threatens the very life blood of our democratic values here in the US. I’m not trying to devalue the work of the journalists that are employed by 24/7 “News” outlets. But I acknowledge that there are serious problems with the Business of 24/7 News. The constant need for engagement in order to generate revenue is taxing true journalism and exploiting it. Unfortunately, I’m not going to fix the worlds problems with this post, and a blog about the Chicago Bulls is hardly the place to try, but then again, maybe if I use my imagination…

Before I end this post, I just want to give a big shout out to Gene Wilder, one of the funniest actors I have ever seen. He died a few years ago, but his work has, and always will make me laugh, the mark of a great comedian.

Until next time, just hold your breath, make a wish, count to three, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!