A couple weeks ago I was informed by one of my reporters that a bomb threat was in progress at the local courthouse in my fair city.
I texted a couple colleagues that do television in the area, and got some of the skinny.
That left me with the task of contacting the information director for the police, I had heard reports that cops and dogs were all over the scene, and wanted an official update.
Much to my shock, I was accused by this officer of “promoting” a bomb threat when I called to get a statement from the police.
In fact, he accused the media as a whole of somehow cultivating such acts of madness.
“We deal with this shit everyday, and you the media are culpable in the promotion of this “idiot”. It’s you guys that write stories and give these idiots the satisfaction they are seeking, you guys are responsible to some degree, you guys encourage these idiots to commit these disruptive acts.”
At the time, I didn’t invest much in his commentary other than it’s not his job to determine our editorial agenda, but his point did stick with me.
Yesterday a user named Amanda, posted the following sentiments to our Facebook Page.
“I feel that our obsession/interest in watching these videos, looking at these pictures, feed the attention the people that commit crimes are seeking. Our perpetuation, our constant sharing is probably making doing horrible things, acting horribly worthwhile. Especially if an individual or organization is looking for attention and publicity.
While we want to get information out, should we not be careful what kind of information/pictures/videos we repost? I, for one perhaps, am disgusted by someone who has the though to take pics instead of help others fleeing a horrible situation.”
A couple thoughts.
- The media has a job to do, to classify reporting as promoting the actors somewhat undermines the importance and the need for the 4th Estate.
2. When you work in the news, producing loads of content is less important the producing verified content. Quotes, audio, video, these components augment stories, and you have to be first. It’s one thing to tell people, it’s another to show them, and to do it before anyone else. That race is real, and it happens everyday
Any print editor with a brain wants augmented content if possible, where as it’s the standard for television.
3. Assigning guilt to news organizations in the wake of confusing or tragic events is common, and often justified, but the decision to blast out information in as many forms as available is going to happen all over the world when a major story hits, or even a local story that I described earlier. It’s the nature of the beast, not something that implies that an organization is somehow encouraging future incidents. The people must be informed no matter what happens, and sometimes that involves making tough decisions.
Do criminals, terrorist, and dishonest politicians mauniplate the power of the media to their own advantage?
Yes, of course they do, but it’s not a partnership, rarely if ever is the mass media in league with citizens are that causing confusion, or death as we saw in Manchester England.
Many accused the press of overexposing the events in Manchester England, including Amanda who questioned the distribution of such videos.
There was also anger that news organizations were reporting that Ariana Grande was safe, but not updating us on the other 20,000 people until way after the fact.
That was a legitimate gripe, an example of irresponsible journalism, which is possible.
Nobody is saying that it’s not.
Not sure if anyone noticed, but ISIS put out a statement accepting responsibility for the attack, a statement that was directed to the media.
Should we not report that either?
You cannot have it both ways.
Either you rely on the 4th estate to provide you with information, or you don’t.
Whatever the case may be, news organizations have a job to do, and will not be held hostage by lunatics and madmen, or the idea that they are promoting the actions of others.
Ratings and clicks pay the bills, field reporting cost manpower and money, if you have a problem with how news organizations distribute content, feel free to come up with an alternative way to manage the concerned outlet’s overhead.
But the idea that the media should sit on it’s hands when there is a bomb threat, or actual home footage of a terrorist attack is not realistic.
That’s not how the world works, not when you charged with informing millions of people on a daily basis.
There is exceptions, there should be standards.
When Gawker Posted that tape of Hulk Hogan engaging in sexual intercourse with his best friend’s girlfriend, perhaps that was not the best decision.
This website posted a FB live video of that killer from Cleveland last month, and several people voiced extreme displeasure with that decision.
Would I take it back?
No, you have to make editorial decisions in real time on the fly, this isn’t 18 rounds of golf, this right now what’s your decision.
If ISIS released a video to this magazine of them chopping someone’s head off, I cannot say for certain whether or not we would post it.
That’s another one of those tough decisions.
Someday, this platform will have much larger responsibilities then we do now, and if a citizen runs across the field during the Super Bowl, one of our reporters is going to film the event, and post it to the internet.
She won’t be promoting the idiot, she will reporting the news.
If that same reporter is on site at a terrorist attack, and obtains a video of the aftermath, the chaos, she is going to post it to the internet.
She is also going to seek statements from law enforcement.
She won’t be promoting terrorism, she will be reporting the news, and this company will see a jump in advertising revenue which will make keeping the lights on that much easier.
If you have a better business model for this company, feel free to forward to it to our inbox.