Disrespectful Voyeurism Needs a Longer Look

I hate when people lose their lives, especially in senseless, awful ways. I will never devalue the importance of a human being, but the deaths of two news reporters this morning has left me thinking about the media’s pressing need to gravely examine our ethical standards of sharing and reporting what we define as news.
There’s already been a feeling of the need to “protect our own,” and a call for censorship of today’s murders in the name of “respect.” I can’t help but feel that makes us hypocrites in the purest form. Everyday media personnel defend themselves against accusations of indecency for doing their jobs. We often point out we are here to protect nobody; We are here to tell the truth… to share facts we all need to know to function in our world. How many times have we argued (aloud or internally) that images, facts or videos are often disturbing, but people NEED (or at least have a right) To see it? That it’s “not our job” to shield people from the disheartening business of the day? I have personally had to explain to callers that photos of fatal traffic accidents have been part of the news for decades, and that we understand it’s upsetting, but it’s our duty to tell people what goes on in the world.

The media has been one of if not the most active entities in creating a society of voyeurs. We pander to everyone’s insatiable thirst to know everything about what everyone is doing. We sensationalize every story about death in every way possible because why? Those are the stories our readers actually read, and share, and comment upon. We give the gluttonous child more chocolate and justify it by saying, “Hey, you asked for more!” Yet, here we are today shaming people for wanting to see a murder live on television because it’s now personal.
Shame on us for such imbalance.
This crime is awful, of course. It’s horrible that those individuals’ family, friends and followers could have unexpectedly watched this attack without even seeking the information. Imagine if Alison had a child who was tuning in before school that day. It’s dark and wretched and vile. I’m not downplaying that, but it happened.
Story after story, I see the videos have been edited. Social media accounts disappearing in record time. There’s an entire discussion unfolding about whether news outlets should be showing the video. I see people asking others to refrain from sharing out of respect… Respect we don’t bother extending to other victims unfortunate enough to have their deaths or injuries filmed. Was there a second of hesitation in posting the murder of Walter Scott’s death online? Why isn’t it “disrespectful” to watch that? Did we care if his loved ones would “mind?” Nobody was pegged as disgusting for wanting to see a man shot by a cop in the back multiple times.

Is it disrespectful to want to watch people die? Yep. But I also subscribe to the unpopular opinion that there is some strange value in seeing the hideous face of reality. When reporters first started going out overseas to report on the Vietnam conflict, Americans were exposed to some of the most raw, powerful and disturbing imagery they wouldn’t have received from radio or print only reports. What happened? They started to care enough to protest.

    I can read, “Someone died” in print and move on in about 30 seconds. I can see an image of the firing squad lining up and feel my heart tighten. When I see a video of someone killed, hear them beg for life, my entire being is involved. Tears flow down my face, and I feel. In which case do you think I would be most motivated to act to promote change?
Again, I find what happened this morning abhorrent no matter how it’s reported, and my condolences go out to everyone who loved Alison and Adam. They really were just doing the jobs we all love so much. I’m certainly not saying we should “suck it up” and revel in the fact that such a horrible event was filmed and broadcast in such detail. I just think if news agencies are concerned about decency in reporting the story – a story that would usually be considered a gold mine of video views and shares – because these are employees of sister stations, we should fully explore our feelings and consider how we report on future tragic deaths.

     It’s not fair to extend sensitivity on a case-by-case basis. It’s not fair to shame everyone for wanting to see death and pain when we pride ourselves on bringing it to them everyday to pay the bills. Maybe it’s time we stop exploiting pain for ratings all together.


Another avoidable 30-second media frenzy

See, this whole debacle with Congressman Jim Bridenstine could’ve been avoided if people would practice a dead art — answering questions.
If you live in Oklahoma, and you haven’t heard about this guy, Bridenstine, turn off Big Brother and give him the attention he’s demanding…just a little bit, though. Here’s the skinny: In June, the Lawton/Fort Sill community was bluntly informed the military base would be used to house about 1,200 children who had illegally entered the country. They would be staying temporarily at a safe, clean, awesome place, basically (and from what I hear, they are). Then, they would be relocated to “caretakers or family” possibly already in the country.
Bridenstine showed up at the facility last week and demanded to come inside to check things out. Security officers informed him he could not, as he hadn’t made a scheduled appointment. Now he’s calling for media to boycott touring the facility with recording and interviewing restrictions, the same restrictions placed on anyone who tours the facility.
He says he has the right to be there; The officials running the facility still have an obligation to protect those left in their temporary care.
I agree with both.
I’ll always support the fight for any public agency to be more transparent; They are funded with tax-payers’ dollars specifically to perform functions on behalf of “the people.” I do believe we have the right to not only know, but also to see, touch, smell and taste. However, officials at the facility have treated him just like everyone else; they’ve not been unfair, and this guy is rubbing me the wrong way.
Bridenstine’s bandwagon ride has probably gained thousands of Web site hits and countless interview requests. We’ve run stories on the front page about the shenanigans twice. (There WAS a grainy YouTube video, though). He’s proud of his interview with Greta Van Susteren and every other media outlet in the country.
Every candidate is using this situation as an avenue to sling mud at either the president, Congress, or “Mexico (Even though many of the children are not, in fact, from Mexico).”
Now, he’s insinuating there’s some sort of “cover-up” going on, or at least enabling his Facebook followers to troll his page, one even commenting that “They don’t want you to know its adults and not children.”
I’ve spoken with one person employed during the initial stages of the transition, and there’s no doubt the children are happy, healthy and safe. They were cheering on a World Cup team one day and practicing salsa dancing the next. They’re eating, and honestly, living well.
All that in mind, Bridenstine seems to be a conflict candidate perfectly tempered for the American populous.
“I’ll wait until the people start Facebook raging about (insert topic), and I’ll whip it up into stiff, delicious controversy to keep myself relevant. Then, when we pass a knee-jerk piece of legislation to “fix” the temporary sting of (insert problem), everyone will forget about it and move on.”
It’s a brilliant strategy. I can’t really be mad at the guy for doing his job well, especially when he’s yelling for access to a facility I’d, personally, love to access. He probably could’ve been wildly successful if he’d taken the stance during the “rage swell” that followed immediately after the announcement that unregistered minors would be housed at Fort Sill, literally minutes away from the community in which I live.
The local news covered the story… every single day. Relentlessly. After two weeks of the noise, I wanted to puke blood. Again, they were just doing their jobs, but it was exhausting to scramble to find out tiny morsels of sometimes irrelevant or insignificant information.
Maybe that’s why he bothers me so much– Bridenstine is acting like the journalist I know I should be.
I do believe people should be allowed to talk with the children. I do believe they should be allowed to record it if the parties are willing and media escorts ensure there’s no sensitive information about the facility leaked.
That will never happen, though.
The media cockblock has been pretty intense on this whole operation. I’ve watched a reporter in my office work to get some tiny piece of information confirmed by officials, and it nearly gave me an ulcer. The local personnel on Post have their hands tied, and it’s not uncommon for some questions to be referred to another agency. It happens often, so I really wasn’t surprised.
But every request for official information was funneled to one phone number and email account at D.C. Some of the questions are ignored, and sometimes the official at the other end simply refers the asker to a list of Frequently Asked Questions online.
The big questions still haven’t been answered.
First and foremost, who made the decision to house the children at Fort Sill, and when was this decision made? It literally felt like there was a press release, “Hey, we’re going to have a couple thousand unaccompanied minors stay on Post for a little while,” and then they were here. I know it ultimately doesn’t matter; The children had to go somewhere, but I would just like to know how these logistical decisions played out here. Was Fort Sill a plan B? For Hobby Lobby’s sake, a plan “D?”
Even Governor Mary Fallin told The Lawton Constitution last month that she doesn’t know:
“I’m also very conscientious and aware that we don’t have a lot of answers of what’s going on. I’ve been on a briefing this week with many officials in Washington, D.C. They gave us a general, overall, ‘here’s why we did it, here’s how it’s happening, here’s where it’s going on.’ Very basic stuff. Not a lot of detail. Told us we could ask one question.”
Then, the big one, what now? How does the process of relocating the children work? Are there counselors interviewing every child to find out where his or her parents, relatives, friends, etc. are living? Who are the persons performing this service, and what methodology do they use? If they’re out-of-the country, will they be returned (deported) to their families there? What if there’s nothing left for them to return to? Have any been relocated at this time?
It seems like public agencies, at least in this area of the country, are increasingly inclined to release only what information they are legally mandated to share and all questions are swatted away like bothersome mosquitoes. Well, stagnant water breeds more mosquitoes, so don’t complain when they’re biting you.
So, now I tell the folks in Washington: You’ve let the pond stagnate; Next time you want to house over a thousand immigrant children at a federal facility and pay hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to do so, be sure you pay it forward with the American people about the plan and answer some fucking questions.
As for Bridenstine asking the media boycotting a restricted tour? Is he serious? Those reporters have been planning and preparing for weeks, just like he was asked to wait for a tour. We’ve got a job to do, as do you, and plan to do it. I know it’s being fed with a spoon, but starving solves nobody’s problems. And above all, reporters, who have been signing up in droves for tours this week, aren’t members of congress trying to drum up popular support for re-election.