Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Rare Look at the News

First, I want to say that while I generally refrain from making political or news-focused posts, I do follow, and am affected by, tragic events such as the shooting at Virginia Tech on Monday. I may not choose to make formal comments, but I do want readers to know that I realize that my blog is a tiny, self-involved bubble, one in which -- thankfully -- I do not live. Being somewhat less self-involved in my social and private lives, this is the place where I can indulge my most superficial musings. However, I feel I would be remiss not to acknowledge that while I type 1,000 word essays about my birthday, there is unfathomable suffering going on in many other parts of the country and the world.

My main reaction to the tragedy at Virginia Tech was disgust at the media's exploitation of it. Don't get me wrong -- it's unspeakably horrific -- but what do you think would have happened if the gunman had killed, say, 15 people instead of 30? Then it wouldn't be the "largest mass shooting in U.S. history". Would it have garnered as much attention if it hadn't surpassed the 1966 sniper shooting at the University of Texas? I hope so, but I don't know. We as a country are obsessed with superlative things; the news doesn't much care for second-best. I watched the news Monday afternoon and the media had already come up with a title: "MASSACRE AT VIRGINIA TECH". It's not a pulp novel. It's real life. Can't we dismiss with titles and records and mourn it for the right reasons? I watched Ann Curry interview a terrorism expert on the 10:00 o'clock news. I cringed as she baited the man, asking, "So, you're saying that if the campus police had responded earlier, this could have been avoided?" Most tragedies could have been avoided; they weren't. Quiet grief and acceptance isn't news, though; news has to be big. The media takes normal human emotions and supersizes them. Got grief? How about blame? Feel sad? How can we make you cry? I can't help but wonder whether the "news" I'm reading is any better than the tabloids, really. Watching the coverage I am reminded that the media looks forward to news like this. Papers get sold with news like this. Journalists win Pulitzers for news like this. The fact that families are suffering seems almost, sadly, beside the point in news like this.
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