As the news broke yesterday, I watched the summaries come into the BBC America news feed (it's the only news program I ever catch, and even then as rarely as perhaps two or three times a month) and the enormity and scope of the attacks and of the overall situation became clear. Then, unfortunately, the 'live' interviews from witnesses began to be broadcast, and I switched off, both figuratively and literally. The circus had begun, with incredibly crass questions such as "When you were watching people being killed, how did it make you feel?" and, incredibly: "Can you just tell us exactly how many bodies you can see from where you're sitting at the moment?".
Of course, this is a major news story, but increasingly, media outlets seem to feel that their goal is to try to emotionally immerse the viewer in the scene. That's not news. That's merely salacious, inappropriate and utterly sickening entertainment. The victims become nothing more than elements of a story: subjects of this effort to titillate and keep the viewer's attention. Attention, of course, means ratings - and ratings means advertising revenue.
I don't believe that the public should be spared the sights of this kind of carnage, in much the same way as I believe that battlefield injuries should be broadcast on mainstream media. We, the public, should not be protected from the realities of such things - for one thing, if we are, it is just too easy to make it entertainment. However, news is news, and delving into witnesses' emotions, victims emotions and bereaved relatives emotions is not news - and it's not new. When it comes to genuine horror, terror and sorrow, there is not very much new that can be said; it just gets said by new people. I think it can be assumed by anyone with functioning brain cells, that all the above mentioned people will not be feeling on top of the world - we can guess how they are probably feeling, and having them articulate it for the cameras has no news value whatsoever. Sick entertainment, again.
Finally: the media is always very eager to report upon the politicians' pronouncements in the aftermath of such things. It seems that people in the positions of power around our world must be given air time to tell us all what a bad thing just happened, how they 'condemn' it, and that yes, they are appalled. Zero news value, again, but I suppose they want their voices heard - perhaps in case we all assume that they don't care?
Looking at the coverage online and on TV with a dispassionate eye, it's nothing less than (stand by for a teenage expression which I believe fits the bill) lame. The same strategies, the same questions, the same program format - and all geared towards 'infotainment'. Frankly, it's sickening - and we're all to blame for allowing it, I think.
The truth is that news in its purest form consists of facts, and only facts. It has nothing to do with eye witness emotions or the sorrow of bereaved people - that stuff is best kept for purile daytime television, free from any disguise as good journalism. The other truth is that, as I mentioned, there is nothing new to be said about sorrow, heartbreak, terror. Watching it, digging into it, dragging emotions out of people - that's nothing more morally justifiable than standing at the scene of a car accident and watching people suffer.
Shame on us.