Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Overwrought Media Coverage of Tragedy

Overwrought Media Coverage of Tragedy

Nobody with any sense of humanity can help but feel horror and outrage toward those whose cowardly actions perpetrated the bombings that occurred at the finish line of the marathon in Boston yesterday, Patriot’s Day, which commemorates the infancy of the American Revolution and the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord and the shots heard round the world. But unfortunately, as a result of overwrought, oversaturation, speculative coverage by the 24/7/365 media, those who are not at the epicenter of such tragedies start to tune out.

When the news first broke of the bombings, I scoured the media for news updates. I love Boston. I have friends that live in Boston. I have coworkers with children attending university in Boston. It is a dynamic city with a storied history. Its people are resilient. This morning, I still had a knot in my chest, an indefinable fear that the terror will spread. I began to dread, actually fear, using public transportation in Washington, DC this week. On the days I commute to the city, I have to use Metro. My office is only a few blocks from the White House. I know my city is a target for disgruntled people the world over.

But the non-stop frenzied coverage of the tragedy by the media started wearing thin. There was too much speculation, too much melodrama, and too much exploitation of an 8-year old boy’s death for ratings.  All of the media outlets contacted similar homeland security representatives, terrorism experts, and the set forth the same guesses as to who could have planted the bombs.  The same graphic images were shown over and over again. The saturation was too much. It is numbing and formulaic. NPR had special coverage replacing “All Things Considered” this afternoon. The host introduced a reporter who had been covering the tragedy “for days” without sleep. Um, it was yesterday. So I turned it off and tuned it out.

I care about the loss of life and the catastrophic injuries suffered by innocent people. But there has always been evil among us. There have always been events that cannot be rationally explained or understood by rational people.  We just must see it and hear it more today than in the past. If you really think about it, modern journalism with the press exposing the general public to horror just began during the American Civil War.  Alexander Gardner’s graphic photographs of the aftermath of the battle of Antietam in 1862, which for the first time showed images of war dead, started it all.  Vietnam brought it into our living rooms nightly during the 1960’s.  The apex came with the coverage of 9/11. But now we are numbed and desensitized. Carnage has become commonplace and the media has given the assailants the publicity they crave. So, I now choose to tune out.

So I again accept that the only way to live is to LIVE. That means refusing to let negative influences adversely affect the way I live my life.  I will go to work, ride public transportation, and I will not let fear take over. 

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