Hamish Harding and the making of a "billionaire"
In thousands of news stories over the course of 25 years, the late Hamish Harding was never a billionaire. And then, suddenly, he was.
Why it matters: Harding — one of five men who perished in the Titan submersible — was an adventurer and an explorer; he also founded a smallish aircraft brokerage in Dubai.
- His memory, however, is now inextricably — and unnecessarily — intertwined with all of the positive and negative connotations associated with billionairedom.
Flashback: Five years ago, I wrote about how the word “billionaire” had "become the vaguest and most annoying of words" — and also a way "to artificially boost pageviews on any given story."
- None of them provides any evidence for the soubriquet, beyond the fact that he seems to have been able to afford six-figure sums to travel into space or the ocean.
By the numbers: Harding was described as a billionaire in 2,222 of the first 6,912 stories published about him after June 19, per LexisNexis — a ratio of roughly 1 in 3.
The bottom line: If Harding had been a billionaire, that fact would still have been one of the less interesting things about him.
- Now that the term is frequently weaponized on social media, it behooves the press to use it with much more circumspection.