Mike Laliberte, Fargo, letter: Mainstream media acting like tabloids
Fear mongering used to be reserved only for print and broadcast tabloids. Over the years I've tired heavily of its role in mainstream media, local and national, which seems to take advantage of any chance to warn that "you could be next!"...
Fear mongering used to be reserved only for print and broadcast tabloids. Over the years I've tired heavily of its role in mainstream media, local and national, which seems to take advantage of any chance to warn that "you could be next!"
The I-35W bridge collapse is a glorious media spectacle that gives reporters like CBS's Katie Couric on Friday, Aug., 3 an opportunity to a say, "Nobody can predict when another catastrophe like this will happen again, or where. But it's almost certain."
What is the informed public supposed to do with statements like that besides wring our hands and fret? The media can make the case that after events like 9/11 they were doing their part to help keep us vigilant against terrorism in our own communities. How does fear mongering keep us vigilant about driving across commonly traveled bridges unless we do our own structural stress inspections and cement crush testing before we cross it?
Couric is not to be singled out. I've heard that foreboding warning in sound bites across the frequencies in any number of stories, including one on meteorites. Yes, it's sexy, but when lifting a quote out of a five-minute interview, is that the most important thing the expert had to say?
The local media is not immune. Some reporters and editors just embrace it more than others. I think every news outlet in town interviewed somebody this week who had not witnessed nor had anything to do with the bridge collapse but had been on or intended to be on the bridge at some point that day or that week. So what? It contributes nothing to the story other than to validate that it COULD have been that dude. But it wasn't. All that sound bite or printed quote does is make that poor bloke a voice for all of us who weren't on that bridge, that at every given moment we're all just a living breath away from something horrible.
It may put sizzle in the
newsroom, but unless there's a public benefit, stop it!