In another thread, a poster mentioned that he/she objected to how the media feeds people a steady diet of tragedies and atrocities that the viewer can’t do anything about, and can’t do anything with - that serve no purpose other than to sicken or dismay.
So for instance, if one is a good and loving parent, then what does it do to learn about how another parent in some faraway state or country decided to chop up his/her kids with a chainsaw? All it does is make the good reader/listener sick to their stomach. They can’t stop the atrocity, they can’t prevent it from happening, and they themselves were never going to do something like that to their own kids, so…what is the reader/listener supposed to *do *with this sort of news?
I am not arguing for media censorship, but rather, that the cons of reporting such news outweigh the pros - that it breeds compassion fatigue and also dampens spirits and creates a sense of hopelessness - and potentially makes the audience more apathetic than before.
There are many other things which a viewer/reader can do something about - if the state of politics is bad, they can vote against a mayor or governor or president - if a neighborhood is in bad shape, they can go out and volunteer - they can donate money to a hurricane-stricken region - but does it do any good to be given bad news about atrocities/tragedies which one cannot do *anything *about?
Why can they not do anything about it? There are many things that they could do. All the way from adopting any surviving kids, to just making sure that they do not have similar problems and issues to the person that committed the act.
They can vote for people who will put more value in CPS and mental health agencies. They can donate to health and human services charities, to assist victims of domestic abuse, or to try to prevent it. They can notice behaviors in their neighbor or friend that is similar to the behavior of the murdering parent leading up to the event.
There are some things that can be done, and it can be argued how practical or effective they are, but the real question is, is what can they do if they don’t know about it at all?
As the song goes “It’s interesting when people die.” The local news stations seem to have a budget for tragedies, and when there aren’t enough local ones they go national. I can see the purpose of covering mass killings, but a lot of these are random family murders from far away.
I don’t buy that there is a benefit in inspiring activism. Any steps that would keep these things from happening would affect 10x or 100x people who would never do anything wrong.
There is a big negative of this coverage - it makes people think there is a crime wave when the crime rate really goes down. The crime rate on the local news never decreases.
I think people do get some benefit from knowing that there are humans amongst us who are very depraved. Such knowledge keeps up from being too trusting and too Polly Anna-ish about their fellow man. It can also make us appreciate the fragility of the human psyche. How many families have become more diligent about getting their brooding kids mental health care after all these mass shootings have made the news?
There may be some benefit, but it definitely causes a problem in our estimation of risk. Crime is getting better, but people think it’s getting worse. The more we hear about something, the worse we think it is.
And there still are a lot of stories I can’t do anything about. Or, I can do something about it, but only at a specific time. My choice is largely to not specifically seek out any of this sort of news (except during the times when I can do something about it, for the latter).
On the other hand, I know people who say the news is too depressing and never check it out, and I think that’s a problem, too. That’s why I applauded the inclusion of feel good stories and such. But I think even better would be just news about what life is normally like, or, at least, news that gives context of how bad something really is, like how the UK covered Ebola vs. how the US covered it.
But the OP was talking about murders in faraway states which you probably can’t do anything about. Reporting local murders does have some benefit. People have murdered other people since way before history began and will probably keep murdering them as long as there are humans. And we’re talking random murders here, not murders that highlight a social issue.
What BigT and I are talking about is called availability. Your estimation of the probability of something depends on how much you have been exposed to it. There are far more stories about murders than suicides, so people tend to think the murder rate is higher than the suicide rate, which is not true. Airplane crashes get more coverage than car crashes, so people unafraid of riding in a car fear airplanes. (There are other reasons too.) Sometimes people from warm areas who hike up mountains get caught unprepared in sudden blizzards, since they don’t think much about the possibility of sudden snowstorms, there not being any where they live.
So, running murder stories from far away makes viewers overestimate the murder rate. That’s not good.
I bet her or she doesn’t listen to every local news story to build this tally. Central and available collections of statistics like this is good. The police will list all murders, not just juicy ones.
A few years ago I bet a lot of people thought that the murder rate for hot blondes was very high.
Anything you try and keep from people, they will be drawn to like flies in my experience. Even if you could remove all such reporting from broadcast news, tabloids would just fill the gap. And people would flock to buy them in unheard of numbers, is my guess.
A change in *how * these events are reported would be a more productive and doable change I think.
Think Joe Friday, ‘Just the facts, thank you Ma’am.’ Current broadcast media tends to a race to the bottom and info tainment, but it wasn’t always that way.