Aug 06

Disaster is the crack cocaine of broadcast journalism

As could be predicted, the broadcast media went on a pure feeding frenzy after the horrific Minneapolis bridge collapse. 806_image_3

The disaster was dissected and deconstructed time and time again. Eyewitnesses, experts and anyone else who could walk and chew gum were interviewed and asked what they saw, thought and felt. Sidebar stories showed local bridges that, like the one in Minneapolis, had structural defaults.

Intrepid reporters strapped themselves into crash simulators and walked us through best practices for escaping a submerged vehicle.

I’d list all of the above as sound, responsible journalism. Where the media beast went over the line, though, was in the showing and re-showing of the bridge collapse itself. I wish I had a dollar for every viewing.

Spectacular calamities have become the crack cocaine of TV news coverage. How many times have we seen JFK and Jackie hanging a left-hand turn into Dealey Plaza? Or, how about the Challenger hurtling skyward until it explodes into a thousand pieces? And, of course, the Twin Towers come crashing down each and every time Al Qaeda issues a new warning.

It’s all about the ratings and, sadly, shock sells. So, the media continues to cross the line and show too much negativity too many times. The end result is that, like JFK, the Challenger and the Twin Towers before it, the images of the Minnesota bridge collapsing into the Mississippi River are now seared into our collective memory banks. And, to what end?