A Novel Suggestion For Mass Media Types

I’m not typically inspired to offer straightforward commentary on world events, at least not without a healthy dose of humor, but the recent rampage shootings in San Bernardino have brought to the surface a topic that’s actually been bugging me for quite a while now. In this particular instance – at least as of this writing – the names have not been released, though you know it’s only a matter of time. And this is the problem. My suggestion for those in the business of delivering news to the masses is this: stop glorifying these monsters.

Soon, every major media outlet in the galaxy will be breathlessly intoning the names of whomever was responsible for these heinous crimes ad nauseam. But this is really only a façade, this pretense of caring in the name of keeping the pot stirred up. It’s all about the ratings (or what you perceive to be influencing the ratings, anyway – I’m still not convinced people tune in to a specific news program because they and they alone offer the juiciest dirt). Let’s pretend for a moment that every time you aired a segment on one of these horrific school shootings, or spree killings, or other random attacks, that your viewership inexplicably plummeted to 1/10th of what it customarily is. Would you still be broadcasting these pieces? Of course not. So let’s dispense with this fiction of caring and call gossipy sensationalism out for what it is.

Am I suggesting you should not cover these crimes at all? Well, no, not exactly. But one manner in which mass media can make a positive impact, I feel, is to stop releasing the names of these animals. Whenever some hate filled racist shoots up a church, or voices-hearing psychopath does the same to a movie theater, or anything similar, the illusion of glory is often part of what drives these maniacs to commit such heinous acts. So let’s yank this platform out from under them. For decades now it has been virtually a unanimous practice for anyone airing a live sporting event, to cite one analogous example, to refrain from broadcasting any footage of a random spectator dashing onto the field. I fail to see any sound reason why the same policy couldn’t be applied to random senseless crimes. Often it’s the same networks adhering to a policy of refusing to glorify some streaker at a golf tournament, yet an hour later leading off their 6 o’clock news with a segment turning some highway sniper into a household name.

I haven’t heard anyone ever suggest taking this editorial higher ground, however, despite rising terrorist threats around the globe, a seemingly ever increasing spike in the number of school shootings and similar attacks from one year to the next, and the venomous fervor with which both sides of the gun control debate present their case publicly. And I’m not idealistic enough to suggest any such proposed measures – whether mine or anyone else’s – would ever eradicate these massacres completely. But if doing so could even make an impact of 1% to the good, would this not be worth it? Another, far slighter concern, too, though one which also concerns me, is the extent to which we are guaranteed the right to a fair trial in this country, that whole innocent until proven guilty business…and yet your life could potentially be ruined by the mere accusation that you’ve done something, as countless have been when their identities were plastered all over the news, only to later find themselves exonerated.

At any rate, to summarize the issue: you’re not that concerned, so please dispense with pretending you are. Nobody cares or remembers in retrospect which news program was the first to “break” a particular story, and thus your fears of being scooped are unfounded. Even if you were being scooped, but could make some sort of positive impact by being the one network/newspaper/online media source to take the higher ground and refrain from releasing names, would you not do so? And if the answer is nay, doesn’t this kind of circle back to my point about not really caring as much as your feigning? Maybe I’m missing something here, but I really don’t think so.



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