Thursday, 26 July 2012

Too bad, Greenland

 About a week ago, someone got ticked off at a block party in a suburb of Toronto and shot some people.  A few days later someone else decided a midnight movie premiere in Colorado would be a great place for target practice.  Elsewhere in the news, there's a crisis in Syria, and a truly frightening and sudden ice melt in Greenland.  Both these stories and many others have repercussions for the entire globe, but pages and pages, and hours and hours of news coverage are being devoted to these violent suburban incidents.

I'm not belittling their impact on hundreds of people, the relatives and loved ones of the slain, wounded and yes, even the murderers.  However, I don't think the obsessive attention to these events benefits anybody and indeed, increases the likelihood of more murders.  Why?  Because, judging from the number of hit "reality" TV shows, everyone wants to be famous, and blowing a bunch of people away (unless you happen to be in Syria) seems a really efficient way to do this.  Take a gander on this item from British journalist and screenwriter Charlie Brooker.  

Now, personally, I find Brooker's sarcastic comments a tad redundant, but I think the recommendations to the media made starting at the 1:42 mark in this video by forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz are worth repeating, particularly #2 (and I'd add "Avoid mentioning the name of the killer whenever possible."):

1.  "Don't start the story with the sirens blaring."
2.  "Don't have photographs of the killer."
3.  "Don't make this 24/7 coverage."
4.  "Do everything you can not to make the body count the lead story."
5.  "Don't make the killer some kind of anti-hero."
6.  "Do localize this story to the affected community and make it as boring as possible in every other market . .  . ."

How likely are newspapers and news programmes likely to take this advice?  The answer is in the sixth point.  We're talking about a market.  They're selling this as news and we are gobbling it up.

Too bad, Greenland.

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