Special to the Daily Sundial
As the New Year is here, it gives us a chance to look back and reflect on events that shaped our lives in 2005. This past year brought many sad and horrific events to our newspapers, television sets and hearts. Unfortunately these sad events were the only thing the media chose to latch on to. Journalism careers were promoted at the expense of millions of people’s suffering from natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and freak accidents. For example, CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina increased his national exposure and status as one of the more elite reporters.
The importance of covering national disasters such as Hurricane Katrina should not be underestimated; the American public has the right to know what is happening in the world. Obviously, one of the best ways to transmit the aftermath of the hurricane is television. If it were not for camera crews and reporters in the hurricane-ravaged areas, the lack of an immediate response by the government would not have been exposed.
It is an unfortunate irony that journalists’ careers seem to be bolstered by such tragedies. Despite the fact that journalists must report what is happening in our fast-paced world, it may not be necessary to fixate in excess on carnage, misery and pain. Some completely blame the media for this focus, while others point fingers at those who watch the events as they unfold. Perhaps the media is as guilty as the viewers.
The media will exploit anything that propels ratings. Media conglomerations such as CNN, FOX News and NBC are in the business of making money. For the time being, scrutinizing coverage of disasters is translating into higher ratings resulting in higher profits.
The excessive coverage of death and destruction can in part be attributed to technology. As technology improves so does the news coverage. Stories are now posted on the internet within minutes of the event. This has created a culture of 24-hour news coverage, which contrasts sharply with the circumstances of the early-to mid-twentieth century.
Overseas news would be delayed due to logistical difficulties, and the ability to report a story was limited to only a certain type of media including print, radio and television broadcasts.
Newly developed satellite capabilities and the internet have eliminated most limitations and delays on delivery of news. Networks such as CNN, Fox News or NBC now inform the public every second of the day. As a result, people have become accustomed to having news spoon-fed to them as quickly as possible. The demand for exciting news is higher and the networks will go to great lengths to report it.
It seems that Americans would rather watch a car chase down the 101 freeway than pay attention to the hard work and dedication toward building a school in the inner-city of Los Angeles. This also applies to the war in Iraq. No matter what political stance you take, it would be nice to hear what our soldiers and the Iraqi citizens have done to improve the conditions in that country. While we need to hear about the carnage in Iraq because American lives are at stake, it is also important that the media has a balance of the positive and the negative.
In such volatile times, it may not be by coincidence that the American people are more interested in violence than in peace and progress. ?We all hope for peace and prosperity. The media presents a world filled with just the opposite. Is the media being fuelled by the American public to create a generation of cynical and violent people? ?It remains to be seen in 2006. Let us hope that our nation’s journalists learn to strike a balance between the two.
Adam Hecht is a Political Science Graduate student and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org