Tragedy Revisited

When a tragedy like the Movie Massacre in Aurora, Colorado, happens it’s important and newsworthy. Unfortunately, the news coverage of these events often loses the story which gets lost in the formulaic relating of it.

Oklahoma City; Columbine; Pearl, Ms.; Virginia Tech, all end up with the same treatment. It’s like TV News has a big book of tragedy coverage plans and cliches and darned if they don’t all follow the playbook every time.

It starts with Phase One in which:

News is announced.
Info trickles out.
Much misinformation is spread.
Everyone is shocked.
All networks go to complete coverage, even skipping ads. However, at this time there is almost nothing known so you get a lot of people gassing about any topic that is in any way related. Speculation abounds and outrageous things are said.
You know who’s important at the network because their top guys all hightail it out to the scene of the disaster.

Phase Two:
Camera crews are all over the place. Sometimes you see them tripping over one another.
Witnesses are interviewed. Lots of them still seem shell shocked yet they are quizzed – cold heartedly – at this point when they still haven’t understood what happened.
Police hold press conferences in which very little is disclosed. Still, desperate anchors in New York seize upon any point and make it seem more important than it probably is. At this stage there is great respect for police/firefighters/first responders. Later, not so much.
The big gun anchors jockey for dominance. Who can get the interviews? Who can make the most heartfelt statements?
At this point someone decides on a name for the tragedy. Each network figures their own out which is kind of odd, actually. This is followed by some sappy music they use as a theme every time they come on air.
The president makes a statement. It usually includes “our hearts and prayers go out to the victims’ families,” “we struggle to understand how such a thing can happen” and “we promise to cooperate and do anything that the local police need.” Then Obama’s handlers sit down and figure how they can benefit from this politically. A lot of peoples weekends are ruined. Prayer never mattered before, but it gets a bump now.

Phase Three:

Call for unity.
This is immediately followed by statements like ABC’s Brian Ross alleging connections to the Tea Party/right wingers/gun advocates/Rush Limbaugh. MSNBC goes into liberal overdrive.
Media insists that the entire country is trying to understand this and what it says about our culture.
Media has lots of ideas on what it says about our culture. First and foremost is the need they perceive for greater gun control laws.
Every congressman with an axe to grind uses this event as a way to introduce legislation. There’s a sleazy lawyer quality about how ready they are to spring into action.
The blame game starts. Who missed the warning signs? Was it the police? School administrators? Local communities? This, of course, can never be answered, but they get to score liberal points by offering ideas.

Phase Four:

Geraldo does an in depth show of the shooter and then one on the victims.
The American way of life comes into criticism. We need to reevaluate our lifestyles. The simple concept of an evil person falls away as the shooter is a victim of something. Various psychological ailments are applied to him. Violent movies and violent video games get blamed for his actions. The breast beating continues and so does the scolding of the American people for a culture that could produce this tragedy.

Phase Five:

Call this the move on phase. The media gets tired of covering it and race back to their headquarters. The victims are forgotten and the family and wounded the media hounded to talk to are dropped. It’s surprising that shortly after an event like this any news that might really be interesting about it is casually mentioned. Hardly noted. The trial comes about, it renews interest but after a verdict the perp goes to jail and the event gets forgotten.

Until the next one starts it all over again.

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