A very alarming news story appeared on television screens across the world this week. It reminded me of not only the important role teachers play in moulding young minds and inspiring the next generation, but how in many cases they act as the substitute parent when the child is at school. That was demonstrated this week and it is heartbreaking.
However this time, it isn’t an entry about education at all, but journalism. My strange obsession for news made me sometimes see distressing stories when I was young, and that included American massacres. Now at the age of 23, I think to myself, ‘is it ever wise to give stories like this such widespread blanket coverage’?
A tweet I saw yesterday from Matt Frei, a journalist I respect very much, got me thinking:
I have rarely felt this uncomfortable covering a story. Ev en with lightest touch we are en masse treading on grief
Even somebody as experienced as him, knew the sickening discomfort, maybe even audacity, of treating a town’s shock and grief as a mere ‘story’. Although it is a journalist’s job to always report the truth no matter where it takes them, I think to myself, how far is too far? So much came out about the perpetrator and a lot of attention and column inches devoted to him, but people like that do not deserve double page spread profiles in newspapers. The public interest argument does not stand up too well in this situation. The perpetrator was not on the run, but deceased. Why the incessant and somewhat controversial media reportage?
The questions do not stop there though. Does media reportage of this scale inspire copycat acts? Can it ever be justified to descend en masse in a small community to disturb the grieving and mark it forever in history as notorious for one thing? The biggest question for me I believe, is the inclusion of children in interviews after a horrifying experience; is this in any way ethical?
One of the dangers of this type of media reportage is that the perpetrator is etched onto memories and allowed to be remembered in history, with any future catastrophes, compared on some sort of twisted scale of destruction. Yet the victims become forgotten. Maybe I’m being soft, and it is true that many grieving human beings see talking to reporters and the media in general as therapeutic – they want to do it. However I don’t think this is true for all. Some may think I’m probably not cut out to ever be a reporter, but sometimes taking a step back and thinking about the human being is more important than chasing the ‘story’. After all, news changes every day, and before you know it, another ‘story’ will appear. What is left then for those left behind but still broken?
Broadcast Belle Fact: Journalism is seen as protected under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.