April 18, 2007

News & Tragedy

Nothing quite makes the national news machine spring into overdrive like the senseless murder of a large number of people. Whether or not we as a society are comfortable admitting it, we want to know the stories of those who died, those who lived, and those lives forever changed. This demand practically requires the news agencies to commit their resources to finding out as much as possible. It also leads to the "exploitation" of grief and sorrow.

Thus, the news industry faces a paradox. Reporters have to push potentially insensitive questions on people who may not be prepared for them, but they also have to refrain from going "too far," whatever that subjective phrase means. They must be nosy and pushy without being outrageous. Or, more cynically, they need the tears without the guilt.

Before too many people begin damning the media for their coverage of the VT shooting (including reporters and producers trawling blogs for students willing to talk), I feel it is important to note that most reporters don't actually enjoy covering a tragedy. They ask the hard and, occasionally, the idiotic questions because it is their job. They are there because, collectively, we want them to be there.

Over at Slate, the latest Pressbox column discusses media coverage of tragic events. If you are at all interested in the press, the short column is worth a read.

Posted by Randy at April 18, 2007 12:34 AM | TrackBack