Like most of America, Indy and I spent much of last week watching the drama surrounding the Boston Marathon bombings and ensuing chase after the bombers. Much of the time we were laughing: Indy, at the media circus, and I at Indy (if you’ve ever seen a cat laugh… not that many have, but it is funny in its own right).
No, the subject itself was not a laughing matter, but we were presented with yet one more excellent example of how impatient our society has become. Nowhere else is it more clear that we’ve become slaves to instant gratification than when disaster strikes. Breaking it down, however, we must lay the blame squarely at the feet of the media.
“It all has to start with the media,” Indy declares. “Like a tree falling in the woods, if something were to happen, such as the bombings, for instance, and no one was there to report it, for most of the world nothing happened. Oh, of course in this case there were witnesses, so even without the accredited media, word would get out. But one can make a case for the tweets and Facebook postings being affected by the poster’s hidden desire to be a proxy for the accredited media. So it’s still the media’s fault.”
I motioned for him to continue, being on a roll.
“Okay, so the event occurs and the media trip over themselves to be the first to get the word out. Why? I think it is because they believe the public will put the most faith in the outlet that breaks the news first, so that same public will stick with them, and ratings (with subsequent ad dollars) go up.”
“But who is it that gives them that impression, Indy?” I ask. “Isn’t it the audience, demanding to know everything now?”
“Well, yes, but if the audience didn’t know something existed, they wouldn’t be demanding to learn it. Once the media makes the first, incomplete announcement, the feeding frenzy begins. Journalism’s long-heralded who, what, when, where, why, and how has been replaced with what, where, and how long since when. Once first notice goes out, the missing pieces start getting filled. But being first not only covers the initial report. It has to apply all along the way. We don’t have one carefully researched, complete news story. We have 50 zillion bite (or shall I say byte) sized stories, each with immediate release tagged at the beginning.
“I mean, look at that report of having suspects in custody that was released, what, on Thursday? The first report was allowed to be aired by a respected media outlet without confirmation, and the other outlets jumped in and reported it as gospel, solely on the reputation of the first outlet. Sure, they hedged their bets by crediting the initial news outlet, but they still went with the report. We should commend the outlet that didn’t join that bandwagon.”
“You can’t leave the audience blameless though,” I countered. “We’re the ones who tweeted and re-tweeted everything we heard. We didn’t wait for confirmation on anything. Heck, tweeters for the most part have no channel to obtain confirmation through.”
“You probably wouldn’t use it if you had it. Yes, your need for instant gratification fuels the fire, but I still think the media has the responsibility to control the flow, and they shirk that responsibility faster than I kill fleas.”
Which is, I’d have to say, pretty fast. Indy is a champion at flea control.