Media is a mirror of AmericaPublished 12:02am Wednesday, July 25, 2012
An interesting thing happened on CNN Monday when veteran TV anchor Anderson Cooper received a heartfelt challenge from the father of a shooting victim in Aurora, Colo.
During a routine interview in which Cooper was attempting to put a face and a life story to victim Alex Teves, the father turned the tables.
He challenged Cooper, CNN, USA Today and any other media to stop using the name or showing the face of the shooter.
The brother of another victim made the same plea during another interview earlier in the day. Why give a coward the attention he probably wanted, the victims’ loved ones are arguing.
Instead, put the attention on the victims. Let’s remember their names, not the name of the evildoer, the families say.
It’s an excellent point, and no media organization has argued with the request.
Yet, the shooter’s name and likeness are still making headlines.
Teves’ father politely, yet pointedly, put the blame on the media.
“The media” is, after all, a wonderful target for many of the things so many of us view as wrong with America, right?
Perhaps that’s true on some level, but not as much as you may think.
Don’t get me wrong, I hate TV news with a passion. I’ve never dreamt of a career in broadcasting, and I’ve been making fun of what TV anchors call “reporting” since my high school journalism days.
TV news — almost without fail — does sensationalize, half-report and ignore the good for the gory.
But blaming big media — cable TV and the big newspapers — for the ills of our society is simply looking for a scapegoat instead of looking in the mirror.
Media — from CNN to The Natchez Democrat — is a business. In order for a business to succeed, it has to give the customers what they want.
The customers of media are TV watchers and newspaper readers — basically, you.
And whether you personally believe it or not, you have an innate curiosity for the bad, the abnormal, the gory.
Newspaper circulation experts have known for hundreds of years that a newspaper sitting in the rack with the word “murder” in the headline will sell out long before a newspaper proclaiming “helping hands.”
TV news analysts know ratings are high when a cowardly lunatic with bright red hair who entered a theater in tactical gear with a loaded arsenal is on the screen.
And since all media is a business, no reporter would have the funding to get to the story about Alex Teves — the guy everyone loved in high school — or the local Rotary Club that donated $2,000 to charity if it didn’t report the gory details of the latest crime in order to attract America’s attention and pay the bills.
Big media is, in many, many ways, an entirely different ball game than what our staff at this newspaper does every day.
We made it a policy decades ago that we’d go out of our way to report the positive — not just the negative. That’s why you see a “Bright Future” story highlighting local students every week, photos from church events, previews of fundraisers and much, much more in our newspaper every day.
But at the same time, if a lunatic commits a crime in Natchez, we’ll work to find out as many details about him as we do his victims. We’ll do that not because he deserves the attention, but because you want the answers.
Point the finger at the media if you like, but until America’s interests change, its media won’t.
Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or firstname.lastname@example.org.