Monday, August 16, 2010

Reality News

So, this weekend at a monster truck rally, a truck went out of control and smashed 8 people in the crowd, killing them. While I was eating breakfast, the news decided to play it for me, causing me to immediately hit the power button to switch off the grizzly scene. At what point did it become necessary and acceptable to show scenes like that on TV? And why can't I become desensitized to it?

I trace the moment I became disgusted with sensationalist news to 9/11, when CNN ran a close-up shot of people hurling their bodies out of the windows of the towers before they completely collapsed. Their free-fall to the jagged stones of concrete below is something I will never be able to erase. If I'd been warned, I would have looked away; I did not need to store that image for instant recall, nor can I see how it added to the reporting of the atrocity in any way.

The Digital Age makes video so accessible that I rarely hear anyone talking about the appropriateness of screening a shot before considering airing it. On iphones, digital cameras, flips, and laptops, cameras are ubiquitous. The 24-hour news cycle makes the eyewitness account imperative, since it ostensibly keeps viewers from switching to another channel to get a summary, rather than an up-close-and-personal view, of the story. But what's lost in the fight to be first? Sure, it's the verifiability of the story, but it's also the respect of the subjects and the subjects' families being filmed, not to mention that of the viewers.

3 comments:

Lisa Pritchard said...

I've been wondering the same thing, mostly after the luge accident at the winter Olympics. They were airing the grisly footage of the poor luger flying off the track at 90 mph into a concrete post before the family even knew what had happened. And they kept replaying it. I understand the desire to be informed but at what cost to viewers and the families of the people who are the focus of the news story?

EarthEmpiresCheck said...

Yeah Shock and Awe seems to sell now a days.

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dark disciple said...

I have a little different take on your posting. I think it is a good thing that you have maintained your sensitivity to this (though you did turn it off). I think that the real danger is in becoming so immune to the outrageous and atrocious that we are totally without the ability to respond normally. We become callous. I also object to the news "mix". As in "Four people were trampled to death when the truck went out of control. This weekend should be clear and sunny, which should make a lot of vacationers happy." So the unusual and the normal are mixed and we eventually respond to both the same, with a nod and a "uh huh".