Monday, April 30, 2007

Tragedy Coverage

In the midst of tragedy, decisions are often made when circumstances are largely unknown and information still lingers outside the grasp of the masses. For this reason, it is critical for the media to produce as much information as quickly as possible so that the public sphere has the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions related to the tragedy. However, some information is better left dead--at least for a while. Starting in the 1990's and continuing into the new century, school shootings have rocked our nation in unprecedented frequency. This most horrific trend is too complex for a journalist such as myself to accurately dissect, but I believe that the shootings themselves are a sick response to our nation's declining morals. Blame, outside the shooters themselves, cannot be placed on any one entity, but the trend itself may, in my opinion, be a combination of three things: one, that our society's digression into the commonplace of pervasive violence in all forms of media; two, that the violence shown in the media isn't coined as "bad"; and three, of which this post will be centered around, there is a disconnect between the shootings and mass society. Furthermore, on this third point, I believe our nation does not know how to handle such tragedy, and the lack of that specific knowledge has led to the development of a sort of copy-cat effect in which these shootings occur again and again because the media, in a way, glorifies the shootings and thinks little of the traumatic emotional damage inflicted on the victims. For example, in this most recent and tragic Virginia Tech shooting, NBC displayed the shooters video diary for all to see over the Internet—I didn't see this video on TV—NBC defiled the University and it's many victims when they decided to show this video. I can recall one police authority saying that the video re-attacked the victims involved in the incident. Blame cannot be placed on NBC though. Blame can only be placed on those who knew better--who knew? I don't believe our nation, as a whole, has any idea how to act in the following weeks of these shootings. Moreover, I don't believe we have devised ways in which to prevent these shootings in the future. It is a great deal harder to prevent these tragedies in our country than in most others because we have the right to bare arms as well as the right to free expression (media's violence). NBC, as well as the rest of the media, needs to rely on the voice of experts when dealing with tragedies and not their own ideas of news coverage in cases such as these. The video could serve the public in no way, especially in the way it was displayed. Maybe it could be used as an example of warning signs to look out for in the future, but the way they put the shooters face on seemingly countless screens is completely disrespectful to the victims and their family and friends. This is the video NBC should have focused upon: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18143312/

1 comment:

miles said...

This is very interesting, and brings up questions about digital democracy...Silver is having us carry around our cameras all the time, and we are learning how to upload all our own content so quickly and easily...so what if (God forbid) a Virginia Tech happened in SF. Us journalism students would all be ready to go with our cameras and flickr and blogs...it seems that while Web 2.0 has given ordinary citizens the ability to produce their own journalistic content, they (we)have yet to figure out how to produce such content responsibly...