On the fence
I have just read John Tierney's latest column in the NYTimes, and i've got to say that even though his argument makes sense, i am kind of on the fence about it. I can't figure out if he is right or wrong, so i am enlisting your help and asking for your opinion. Ok? If a man-bites-dog story is news and dog-bites-man isn't, why are journalists still so interested in man-blows-up-self stories? I realize that we have a duty to report suicide bombings in the Middle East, especially when there's a spate as bad as in recent weeks. And I know the old rule of television news: if it bleeds, it leads. But I'm still puzzled by our zeal in frantically competing to get gruesome pictures and details for broadcasts and front pages. [...] The standard advice to newly arrived journalists at that time was: "Relax. It's not nearly as bad here as it looks on TV." Correspondents complained that they'd essentially become cop reporters, and that the suicide bombings took so much of their time that they couldn't report on the rest of the country. They were more interested in other stories, but as long as the rest of the press corps kept covering the bombing du jour, that was where their editors and producers expected them to be, too. You could argue that their bosses were simply responding to their audiences' visceral urges. Everyone rubbernecks at car accidents; cable news ratings soar when there's a natural disaster or a heinous murder. But how much shock value or mystery is there anymore to suicide bombings? How intrigued are people by murders when the motive, the weapon and the murderer's fate are never in doubt? He is right, you know. Honestly, i just skim through the suicide bombing news nowadays. I don't even bother with the details, just the headline, which usually tells me the location and the number of the dead. It's starting to become as desynthasizing as the palestinian -Israeli conflict in 2001- 2002, when you had a palestinian suicide-bombing and an Isareli Helicopter attack almost everyday. When it's an everyday occurance and phenomenon or the weather, it's not even news anymore at that point, you know? Anyway... I suspect the public would welcome a respite from gore, like the one that New Yorkers got when Rudolph Giuliani became mayor. He realized that even though crime was declining in the city, people's fears were being stoked by the relentless tabloid and television coverage of the day's most grisly crime. No matter how much the felony rate dropped, in a city of seven million there would always be at least one crime scene for a live shot at the top of the 11 o'clock news. Mr. Giuliani told the police to stop giving out details of daily crime in time for reporters' deadlines, a policy that prompted outrage from the press but not many complaints from the public. With the lessening of the daily media barrage, New Yorkers began to be less scared and more realistic about the risks on their streets. And it worked. In 1992 you couldn't walk in Time square without seeing a couple of hookers on street corners and people were afraid to walk there after certain hours at night. Now that area is the center of NYC, with MTV studios relocating there and all. Giuliani seriously cleaned the city up and made it a lot safer and better, and you can't deny that people's perception of how safe it is has something to do with it. I'm not advocating official censorship, but there's no reason the news media can't reconsider their own fondness for covering suicide bombings. A little restraint would give the public a more realistic view of the world's dangers. See, here is where i am on the fence. The little restraint thing. I am with him on the concept, i am just afraid it would get abused. That the little restraint becomes slightly more restraint and then morphs into censorship. However, on the otehr hand, one could argue that such censorship exists nowadays anyway, in the form of which stories the editors chose or don't chose to run. So if they all agreed to do it, then we wouldn't get such glorified coverage on those bombings. Just as New Yorkers came to be guided by crime statistics instead of the mayhem on the evening news, people might begin to believe the statistics showing that their odds of being killed by a terrorist are minuscule in Iraq or anywhere else. Terrorists know the numbers are against them and realize that daily bombings will not win the war. All along, their hope has been to inspire recruits and spread general fear with another tactic, the bombing as photo opportunity. For some reason, their media strategy still works. You see, it makes sense, but still, i don't know. I can't help but feel that if they did that, there would be something dishonest about the whole thing, but i understand that if they did it, it would make the terrorists look weak and their attacks miniscule, which would mean that it would take the glorification out of joining them and committing such acts, which would defitnly decrease their numbers of recruits. It's like the whole "would you commit a little evil for the greater good?" question. I am not sure where i stand on that one really, you know? Help!