@thenerdybird sums it up pretty neatly. This is the problem with the idea of journalism reporting on tragedies: the search for context and meaning cannot be generalized. Yet this is what the media tries to do. It is a very human, yet futile impulse: if we just know enough, if we understand the sequence of events, if we can know what we should look for or do, we can avoid that fate. We can be better, save more, survive. It’s why crime prevention focuses on teaching people how not to be victims, rather than teaching people not to commit crimes. At least, that’s part of it. Control is a finite, fragile thing. Our minds reject the powerlessness that comes with knowing just how fragile.
We want to be able to turn horrible events into something we have control over. It becomes a rapacious appetite for information as we attempt to process things that can truly never make sense into something that can. The media feeds that appetite, stokes it, and relies on it to maintain their own relevance. “If it bleeds, it leads,” is a grotesque truism. Go read the lyrics of Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry” and tell me things aren’t actually worse now.
There is a responsibility in journalism: to report facts, to make sure those facts have been verified, and to present them with minimal comment in certain settings. There is a place for commentary that mirrors our need for context and meaning. In the 21st century, I fear that commentary has erased the pursuit of the facts.
The Aurora, Colorado shootings may or may not have anything to do with The Dark Knight Rises. They may or may not have anything to do with mental illness. They may or may not have an explanation at all. These are hard truths to accept. Yet, we.must accept them, or risk becoming vultures, feeding on the tears and grief of families and friends who will never live another day without wishing they had a chance to say goodbye.
I ask this, as we are all reeling: demand that the media do better. Demand that they respect the privacy of the victims and their families. Demand an end to the hyperbole and speculation. Find meaning in demanding that tragedy not strip us of our humanity. Find context in the fact that sometimes there is none, life is unpredictable. It is a terrible and sometimes wonderful thing, to live. Then go out and live, please. In all our fragility, living is all we can do.