Why the media cover things they shouldn’t
There’s an old adage in the media business: If it bleeds, it leads. This catchy little phrase is the reason there are some many stories about car accidents and tragedies in the news every cycle. But should it be the driving force?
The argument is really about what is newsworthy. Although extremely subjective, what is newsworthy for most media outlets comes down to what the editors think their audience wants to see or hear. If enough people in the listening/viewing area are interested in a topic, or if it is a story that has a national angle that can be tied into something local, than that makes perfect fodder for the evening news. An accident, possibly with a fatality, is just icing on the cake, or so reporters would say if they were being honest.
As a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years, I learned about this driver first hand. It made me sick sometimes, especially when an editor would tell me “Yeah, it’s not really kind to print this story, but it sells papers.”
This leads me to a debate that has been raging online and in the news here locally over the last day or so. Basically, should the media cover the potential protests of the funeral of a young female soldier who died in Afghanistan. One reporter defended the decision to cover the protests if they are happening because just the proposition of these protests is “galvanizing people.” Others argue that the protesters do what they do to attract media attention in hopes that they’ll get on TV or in the paper. It helps them spread their message of hate.
There is a very slippery slope on this issue, but we all need to make a stand someplace. As a media person, I would understand why an event like this needs to be covered, but I would do my best to nullify the messages of the protesters by getting to the real story that has touched so many people. With death, the fastest way to overcome is to remember the positives of the person who has died.
When the family lay their daughter to rest on Saturday, my hope is that the protest was an empty threat and that the media lead with their hearts instead of just thinking about the bottom line and the lowest common denominator.