Thursday, April 19, 2007

pandering to the ratings god


I had the tv on in the background a good hunk of yesterday while I was resting after a medical procedure. While I know it is necessary to cover the tragedy at Virginia Tech, I became increasingly disturbed by the amount and type of coverage. I fail to see the purpose in bombarding the viewer with looping images of the gunman posing with weapons and repeatedly playing the video of his rambling 'manifesto'. Responsible journalism? I think not. To my way of thinking this type of 'sensational' coverage simply granted the wish of the gunman. (Why else did he send the package to NBC instead of, say, the FBI?) It also probably served as a sick inspiration to others inclined to take such action.

There were other aspects of the story that could have been more thoroughly covered instead: e.g. mental health and the law, campus security around the nation, recalling the victims and heroes... But guess those aren't quite as zippy for ratings.

Disappointing, but unfortunately not surprising.

7 comments:

marie said...

I'm not sure the "manifesto" should have been aired at all. That face and that voice will haunt the families forever.

Serena said...

Guess I go with the students who said it helped them, and no one had to watch. And, I am happy that, at least what I saw today focused a lot on celebrating the lives, and talking about need to provide better mental health services to students.

Barb Berger said...

Thanks for the comments. As the media has scaled back the 'package' coverage (partially due to criticism but mostly because that's the natural cycle of 'news'), they have shifted their focus to different aspects of the story--which is a good thing. But I feel to excuse or defend the media's initial handling of the images and 'manifesto' by saying "no one had to watch" is a weak argument. I didn't buy it when people were defending Imus that way either. ("If people don't like what he says, they just shouldn't listen.") I'm looking for some responsibility, accountability, and integrity with the media.

Serena said...

I hear you! And, one of the ways to hold Media accountable is for people not to watch -:)

Serena said...

p.s.

And at least some people, including me, feel it is important to learn about the mental disease that leads to such events in order to educate people so we can better participate in the prevention.

As several commentators and psychologists have stated, we must get rid of the stigma still attached to mental disease (it's a disease like any other disease) and talk about it and look for ways to treat it, and keep it from harming the afflicted and others around them.

Along these lines Ted Kalinski's brother was very good in his interview on Larry King last night.

Barb Berger said...

I totally agree with your thoughts on mental illness. My main concern was the WAY in which the media chose to cover the 'package'. I think they went overboard in endlessly running the photos and videos, and that ratings and profit margins were of higher priority than journalistic responsibility. Looks like we'll have to agree to disagree on the media!

Serena said...

not the only time we have had to agree to disagree ... I understand what you were saying ... and I understand that media would not be excessive if no one watched ... just as developers wouldn't continue to deface our earth if people didn't buy the homes ... etc. -:) (we all contribute to what is, by what we do or don't do)