Boston Marathon Aftermath: TV News Gets an A+ at Selling Fear

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by Jon Friedman
April 17, 2013 11:08 AM
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In the aftermath of Monday's Boston Marathon tragedy, the U.S. television media have done an excellent job -- at selling fear. 

At providing value for news junkies and concerned citizens? Not so much.

It isn't easy to fill hour after hour with new, scintillating coverage of a major event like this one. But don't feel sorry for the cable news networks. This is the 24/7 world they have created largely because the executives at these companies saw an opportunity to make more money by selling advertisements.

Like many of you, I have had my eyes glued to my television set as the horror unfolded at the finish line of the great race. Like all of you, I couldn't fathom how someone could be so evil as to take the life of an eight-year-old child at the scene and cause untold misery and suffering to so many other people. I turned to the television news outlets to inform me and supply trenchant analysis of this unspeakable event.

Instead, I got very little of value. I could have flicked across the Internet and read the headlines, of the mounting numbers of those who had been seriously injured and hospitalized. The networks didn't tell me much more than I already knew. It was a rather shameful exhibition of staying on a big story.

And it doesn't matter whether I am referring to CNN, Fox News or MSNBC, in particular. I don't intend to single out one or the other. This is not a matter of dumping on your enemies because you don't like the politics of their broadcasts or the voting habits of their viewers. This is a case when politics don't matter.

They all dropped the ball. The networks, by replaying footage of the awful event, succeeded in selling fear. In a way, they made a bad situation even worse because they failed to help us understand what had happened and how it could have taken place in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

When we needed light, they instead brought us heat.

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