Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Point of Saturation

Hello, my name is Linda and I'm a news addict.

Actually, I prefer to think of it as being well-informed. I read the local metropolitan newspaper daily, I subscribe to two weekly news magazines, I read the Yahoo News headlines, and I watch Headline News, MSNBC, etc. pretty religiously. I like to know what's going on in the world.

However, I have no illusions about the media. I'm aware that all too often news coverage is influenced by more than the public's need to know.

This morning, I'm annoyed. There is yet another report of a school-and-gun incident on CNN. Last week, there was a rundown on the daily school-and-gun/bomb threat incidents throughout the United States. I have two issues with this.

1) Weapons at schools and bomb threats at schools are nothing new. They happen daily, weekly, monthly throughout the country. In ten years of teaching, I've been at schools at both ends of the economic spectrum. At those schools, I've helped evacuate students due to a bomb threat. I've witnessed a gun being found in a locker. At one school, a student was expelled for bringing a knife on campus. Another brought a ceramic pot with the intent to hit someone over the head (she knew she couldn't get a knife or gun through the metal detector). Every incident involving a school and a weapon is someone's tragedy. Lives are affected. Sometimes, the scale is so large that it becomes the nation's tragedy. Most incidents, thank God, end without anyone being physically hurt. There is always emotional fallout. But if you've tuned into the media lately, you would think our schools are under siege, that we live in a constant state of fear. Do we? Not really. Am I aware of where my classroom is located, of the routes an intruder might use to get to my room? Sure. I also teach with my door locked, and I mentally run through our GEMA training on safety every day. But once that door closes, it's all about English and all about the kids I teach. It's not about fear.

2) People, especially teens, are impressionable and some are easily influenced. Sure, you have those who are going to come up with the idea to take a gun to school on their own. But do some school-weapon incidents come about because of the increased (and somewhat morbid) media attention? I've taught teenagers too long not to think so.

So, I think today, I'm skipping the daily dose of CNN. Maybe I'll go sit on the porch and drink my coffee instead.

1 comment:

Kristi said...

See, this is why I got OUT of the news business -- my fictional world is much more realistic. Yep, I'm stepping on my soapbox.

The problem with television news, specifically, is that they are saturating -- the news channels are on 24/7 -- the market. They HAVE to have new content every 15 minutes, whether it's overfed or not, to keep viewers coming back. Sometimes that "new" content is simply rewritten content made to sound "better" (actually it makes the story sound much worse than the actual event many times). Viewers staying for more than a 1/4 hour, especially during the big ratings months, boosts the channels potential to earn more from advertisers. And more and more viewers AREN'T coming back because of the saturation/overkill factor of some stories and the fact that they can get the same news content, sometimes with less overkill, online. And the vicious cycle continues. I can't tell you the number of times I heard in meetings that it isn't "a gun/weapon found at school" story any more, it's "our schools are under seige and our children under attack by other children" because that will get the parents watching. I'm not trying to trivialize the issue, but tv journalism isn't about telling the story for the sake of the story, it's telling the story to get the biggest ratings...and that is bad journalism no matter where it comes from.

I'll shut up now.