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Whenever a huge, ugly story unfolds, the media has to do its thing. And like Brian Stelter at a pie eating contest, they never seem to know when to quit.
It’s natural after a tragedy, I suppose, to report and report. It’s necessary. But then what if there’s not enough news to do more reporting? Well, then you repeat it and repeat it again. It’s like that cars for kids ad that makes me want to puncture my eardrums. I know. They really are talented, though.
But it’s everything but facts. You call in talking heads and experts for angles and emotional testimony. They are the hamburger helper of news, if you will, adding volume to the main course.
And when the reporting runs dry, which is fast, the speculation begins. And like me calling my pharmacist, it’s relentless. It won’t stop. Everyone tries to outdo each other and be more perceptive than you. Are you more emotionally affected than me? The news becomes as productive as an argument with a meter maid.
The speculation is then punctuated by dribs and drabs of new info, which hours later turns out to be wrong. There was an officer confronting a shooter. No, there wasn’t. The shooter killed himself. No, he didn’t. The press used to say that if your mother says she loves you, you should check it out first. Now it’s, hey, guess until you’re right.
Meanwhile, everyone turns into little Columbos. Experts in speculation, but little else. But at least Columbo got it right in the end. But now it’s, was there a delay in police action? And if so, why? Should they have gone right in? Or wait for others? Did they screw up?
You know, it’s like we could make these decisions easily. Suddenly we’re experts in tactics and say what we would have done. I know what I would have done. Hide behind Tyrus. Then I’d offer Geraldo as a trade.
I’m kidding Geraldo, Oh, stop it. Stop it. He’s a lovely man.
We play Monday morning quarterback Monday through Friday and then some. I find it hypocritical for media to criticize reaction time when ours is always off. It’s just in the opposite direction.
Just like when we watch videos of cops interacting with unarmed suspects. Suddenly we became experts in policing as though we went to school for it. But in reality, the closest we’ve come to studying the police is watching a documentary on Sting.
The fact is, a lot of us got journalism degrees to avoid doing math, but we can’t help ourselves. It’s the nature of the beast. When I was a kid, we had 30 to 60 minutes of news tops each day. Hell, that included sports, weather and 10 minutes of birthday shout-outs to people who went to high school with God.
But now it’s 24/7. We went from a little bucket of news to an Olympic sized pool that needs filling every day. It’s like Tyrus’s bathtub, where his rubber ducky is an actual tugboat.
But me pointing this out doesn’t mean it’s going to change. I mean, I’m a powerful cog in this machine we call the media, but I don’t have that kind of influence. I can barely get Kat to bathe.
At least we should acknowledge our role in this. Right now, we just show up at the end of a crime. But that crime is off at the end of a long, ugly road featuring clues that make us wonder why we didn’t see it coming. It’s like terrorism.
You see how you could have prevented it after it’s already occurred. The problem is the bad guys watch TV news too.
So the next time they’ll do it differently. And we’ll have to learn another lesson again on how to prevent that specific crime.
But you see, learning on the job is one thing if you’re stocking shelves at Wal-Mart. But when it comes to policing, learning from mistakes usually means learning from horrific human tragedy. Maybe the death of one of their own.
So maybe we so-called media experts should slow down our reaction time about a subject we really know nothing about and learn to do our jobs right first before we worry about how others do theirs.
Of course, single variable thinkers will scream “guns” after an atrocity like this, but we can handle more than one thought.
There’s mental instability, family disarray, bullying, a disturbing presence on social media. The ingredients in these tragedies are as consistent as the ones that a Big Mac.
Yes, there are variables we should catch early. One of them, though, is us, the media. We never lower the heat to these things, even though we know they trigger copycats who see the attention as a chance for infamy and immortality.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t report these stories. Reporting is one thing, but acting as a publicist for the killer is another.
The media almost turns the story into a late-night infomercial, telling young, mentally unstable men who might be watching that, you too could be a household name. You too can go out in a blaze of glory and make history. You too could be the next creep who shall not be named.
That’s the reason someone chooses suicide plus over just suicide. Suicide plus has a payoff provided by, you know who? Us.
So as we criticize cops and say they should have done it better and hope they learn from it, we should also say that about the press. Too bad we won’t listen.