Give Us Dirty Laundry: The Media and the Marathon

I originally was going to post a well-seasoned and intriguing piece about feminism in today’s world, but in light of recent events, I’ve decided to step into my self-acclaimed reporter’s shoes, and shed some light on my perspective not on the attacks in Boston, but on the news coverage of these horrific events. I promise you, my piece on feminism will be published at a later time.

***

I was sitting in my hotel room in Baltimore, tired from a long day of college tours, when my boyfriend called me to clue me in on what had just happened. My first concern was his safety, as he is a resident of Boston. My second thought was, “Is this really happening?” I flipped on CNN, out of habit: Channel 17 according to the hotel guide. I was afraid watching the incoming flood of new information scrolling across the bottom of the screen, the footage of the explosives playing over and over. As the night went on, the death and injury toll rose every hour.

Meanwhile, reporters made their debuts and career-defining stories, centered around this tragedy. It reminds me of the song “Dirty Laundry.” With their catchy opening songs and show titles, Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Piers Morgan, and Erin Burnett scrambled to find eyewitnesses and fill air time between Duval Patrick and President Obama’s press conferences.cnn#2Of course, their reports were sprinkled with the disclaimer that because this was such “Breaking News”, no actual numbers were validated. “But, if if you stick around for another half hour, hour, or day and a half, we will have those numbers checked and confirmed shortly.” There’s the hook.

CNN-breaking-news

Instead of investigating the incident in the hours after the attack, Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis was asked questions he didn’t have the answers to, cnn#3and surgeons were pulled away from the operating room to be subjected to the same firing squad of cameras and microphones outside of Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Now, I realize that our press is a very critical aspect of our culture, grounded in the rights granted to us through the Constitution. But, as a society, we’ve evolved from Walter Cronkite’s nightly news, to 24/7 accounts of developing stories because anyone with a Twitter feed can be a “journalist”.

Walter Cronkite

The local news stations are calling upon citizens to send in their videos and photos: not to help the police or law enforcement, but to add variation to the daily coverage. Prior to this spike in media popularity, the phrase “If you see something, say something” communicated as good an understanding as any: We are citizens of the United States, therefore we report to the United States. But now? I should say the same has become true of our loyalty to social media.

As a writer with no special talent for creative writing, I have always wanted to become a print journalist. But now I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have my concerns. As a citizen, I agree that every American has a right to information; nothing should be withheld from the general public. But has our privileged access to news led to an abuse of entitlement? It dawned on me as I watched the reporting live last night: We are willing to interfere with the duties of respected doctors and police officers, and prevent them from doing their jobs, just so we can be the most up-to-date.

Social media (and I’ll include news stations in this) has done such a good job of turning a profit with people’s fear. They know that you will never fatigue of fear, because it pumps adrenaline and makes you tune-in like no other day of the year. We have such a fear of going 20 minutes being left in the dark, we cannot trust our own officials to do their job, and update the general public when they deem appropriate. So instead, we place high importance on self-reporting, and constant streams of status updates. When did this undercurrent of mistrust for public officials become stronger than our mistrust of media bias?

I know this is a politically polarizing topic, and highly sensitive. But ladies and gentlemen, let’s do our job as citizens and support one another. Take pride in where we’re from, and in the people who work to protect it. Leave the conspiracies to the people who make good money from filling our heads with mere ideas. Turn off the television and computer to avoid the repetitive nature of these developing stories, and hold tight to the people you love most and are fortunate enough to have. Because in my experience, TV doesn’t bring people together: people bring people together.

Advertisements

4 responses to “Give Us Dirty Laundry: The Media and the Marathon

  1. Pingback: Gender Roles, June 2013 | Mum's the Word

  2. I thought I had already responded — bad Neil! — but great post. The fact that I grew up in Boston obviously brought this event even closer to home, which is obviously the same for you. Regardless of proximity, this is another devastating United States event that drives home how vulnerable we can be in this age of miracles.

    As this all rolled out, I was amazed both at the remarkable level of misinformation cast forth by the media as they scrambled for scoops and the flailing efforts of social media to pinpoint the culprits. I like to think that the latter efforts were made with good hearts trying to help, but the former was unconscionable. It made me recall the 1981 Reagan assassination attempt when, as I pumped gas during the day, the media alternatively killed Reagan off then brought him back to life and then declared him dead again. That, too, was a terrifying day made worse by mistruths.

    I’m glad to hear for your passion for print journalism, although good print journalism will almost inevitably become digital at some point these days. Outstanding examples can be found every day at http://longform.org/. You never know what you’ll find, but reading there regularly will make you a better writer. (Check out readability.com and / or instapaper.com for two tools that can convert articles such as these into easy-to-access black-on-white formats.)

    Thanks for keeping us up to date.

    Uncle Neil

  3. Great observations Mandi, and particularly given your interest in the communicating fields. Every new advancement in communications – the camera, the phone, the Internet, 24×7 media – brought some backlash with it. But it also brought a kernel of good for people to find within it, such as random on-line glimpses of fine humanity like http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/16/carlos-arredondo-marathon-hero_n_3092134.html

    There is a lot more content to sort through out there. But I am very optimistic that the next generation of Cronkites (or Woodwards and Bernsteins or Robert Capa or Kevin Kelly or Sara Lacy et al) will help us extract the best kernels out of the corn silo. I think I know one of those people in fact!

    :~D

  4. Reblogged this on Truth of Truths and commented:
    Absolutely some incredible ideas presented here…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s