Judging by what I have read this week on social-media websites, much of America has disliked the television coverage, in particular. The public appears to be rather disgusted. For instance, I garnered 11 "likes" on Facebook soon after I posted the following on Tuesday afternoon:
"It's amazing! The cable news channels have nothing new or valuable to say about the Boston tragedy, yet they keep right on talking."
How could the media generally have done a better job? Here are five ways:
1) Stick to the facts and don't speculate on what you don't know. The police and hospital personnel are usually the best sources in a time of a crisis. I used to be a police/fire/hospitals beat reporter for a newspaper in Buffalo, N.Y., and I learned very quickly that the best way to cover a tragedy was to be as dull as possible -- that is, report only what I officially knew because any speculation on my part was likely to be ill-informed and ultimately incorrect. It's rather bracing when a journalist has to print s correction during a period when everyone is watching.
2) Use discretion when showing photos or footage of a horrifying event: It was completely unnecessary for media outlets to show the stomach-turning images of where the bombings took place. It reinforces a feeling of helplessness. and that is the last thing we should be feeling when we are under assault from terrorists.
3) Avoid questionable humor: Twitter and Facebook seem to attract the nitwits who think they are being funny when they make really lame (at the very least) quips. I won't dignify some of what I read on social-media sites by repeating them here. You won't have to look far yourself to find some glaring examples.
4) Don't shout: When it comes to television news shows' coverage of tragedy, the rule of thumb appears to be: the louder you talk about it, the more earnest you will appear. Wrong! You will come across as an alarmist and an amateur. Don't confuse a story about human suffering with a game-winning home run.
5) Go beyond filler: There is a great temptation to appear on TV during a crisis. Up-and-coming broadcast journalists seem to believe that they will have a "Mad City" or "Ace in the Hole" (to quote two good movies about how unsavory reporters manipulated a major story to boost their careers) moment, which will catapult their reputations and lead to bigger assignments. If a TV or radio journalist has nothing helpful to contribute when his or her turn comes to go in front of the camera,simply pass the ball. You don't have to take every shot at the basket.