I’ve been sitting here for 30 minutes debating with myself about whether or not to say anything about the Boston Marathon bombing news coverage. But there. I just did it, so it’s too late. Let’s just continue, but not without mentioning why I didn’t want to say anything in the first place. 1) I didn’t watch THAT much of the coverage, at least not intentionally. But that alone, might be worth mentioning. 2) It’s already gotten plenty of coverage, and I’m not sure it needs more. And 3) what could I say that hasn’t already been said?
Well, I could tell you about my personal experience of the story, which no one has told. And it’s very likely that no one is actually interested in that angle, but I supposed that’s an inherent risk of blogging in the first place. So just like every other day, feel free to stop reading at any time. You’re not paying for this stuff.
When the bombing took place, I just happened to be doing some yoga in our company’s gym, which is one of the few places in all the continental United States that does not have a television in it. Come to think of it, it does have a television in it, it just wasn’t on. So I didn’t find out the bombing had happened until about three hours later, when I looked at the TV in my office. (Yes. There is a TV right there, mounted in the corner. MSNBC is on all day, every day.) Unlike my television-deprived childhood, I can now find a television even when I’m not looking for one. And as 1,456,329 other media sources have noted, we now have a 24-hour “news” cycle.
But this is akin to trying to determine how the stock market is performing by watching a piece of ticker tape roll by. You get a lot of information, but you don’t get much of the whole picture. So it doesn’t take long before I decided to “wait until later to get the full story” and try to prevent the minute-by-minute assaults of the tiny news tidbits. But they continue unabated, because I am usually surrounded by TVs and smart people who watch the news (and I’m thankful for that last part, actually).
My next personal observation is the grossness factor. A “friend” on Facebook posted a picture this weekend that definitely would not have passed “the breakfast test” as we called it in the news business. Jeff Bauman, who has already earned the proverbial hero title (because every tragedy deserves a hero — another Achilles heal of the news media), awoke from a drug-induced stupor in the hospital after losing both his legs and identified one of the bombers. This is a great thing. No doubt. And he was helped along and possibly had his life saved by other heroes. But here’s the part that wasn’t so great. My Facebook friend did a lousy job of cropping the photo, and I got to see most of Jeff’s exploded legs right there in my Newsfeed. Now we can have a debate about having real knowledge of the casualties of war, and there might be a case for this. But I don’t need to see someone’s dangling veins and arteries to know the profound affect that this event will have on Jeff and the rest of us.
So last but certainly not least, all of this open access to news and information through a growing number of channels, but with a shrinking number of people actually trained in gathering news, causes me to wonder, yet again, what the affect on our collective psychology is and will be when an event like this dominates our consciousness? We already know that the words “Boston Marathon” have a new meaning. Just like “September 11th.” And there will be lots of other memes that have already developed and will continue to develop in the coming weeks. But what I am wondering is how does this change who I think I am and how does this change who we think we are? More violent? More caring? Or becoming more indifferent? Possibly all of those things only rolled into one 5-second sound bite or a sentence fragment in the ticker at the bottom of the TV screen.