In the TV biz, there’s a term: “crashing”.  It means slamming together a show on a tight deadline to address a specific timely topic.  For example, if a terror attack occurs, a news organization will “crash” a one-hour special the same day to report on it.

Crashes are temporary, in-the-moment responses to an evolving situation.  After a day or two has passed and details become known and confirmed, a more in-depth and accurate show can be created.

The decision to crash has been made poorly many times by news executives who believe that capitalizing on the immediacy and sensationalism of a breaking story will yield higher ratings, or perhaps make them look “proactive” to their corporate bosses. It’s easy for execs to make this call, because they’re not the ones doing the actual work of getting the show on the air.

More important, not everything merits a crash. Knee-jerk crashing on lesser stories creates a boy-who-cried-wolf scenario; it abuses the audience’s trust, and it diminishes the sense of urgency when a breaking story is actually important.

The public behaves in a similar way. When a news event stirs visceral emotions like helplessness or outrage, it awakens a desire to launch a personal “resistance crash”, along the lines of, “Oh my God, I’ve got to do something about this right now!”

No, you don’t.

The best producers and managers I worked with had a motto when faced with breaking news decisions: “Don’t crash stupid” .  It meant: Don’t just put on a show because something happened.  Make smart choices. Sometimes it’s better to wait until more facts emerge before pulling the trigger.

I get it.  Something happens, and you want to respond, or “help”.  But knee-jerking before you have perspective is not a helpful response.  Just as the news media is forced to change its reporting as a story develops, so will your emotions change as you come to understand more of the facts about whatever just happened.

It does not make you a bad person to wait before taking conscious action. You can hurt yourself — and hamstring your larger objective — by acting before you fully absorb and assess a situation.

Resistance is a long game.  Don’t slip into complacency, but don’t fall victim to our culture’s constant emphasis on immediacy.  Choose your battles wisely.

Don’t crash stupid, and don’t resist stupid.