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Coverage of Tragedies

by on March 7, 2014

There are constant tragedies that are happen all over the world.  This may include murder, school shootings, and global uprisings (currently Venezuela and Ukraine).  The reporter who is responsible for covering these events will be faced with several decisions about how to go about the story, many of them that would not be popular with the public. 



To use one major event that was covered that had quite a bit of backlash was the coverage of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.  Much of the public had issues with the amount of false reports that were published, including naming Ryan Lanza as the gunman, and reporting that Dawn Hochsprung, the principal, voluntarily let Lanza into the school. 


There was also criticism concerning the relentless stream of television coverage. They talked about the fact that there was a compulsion to stay on the network looking at the other, not wanting to become the first to cut away.  This was especially interesting because it constantly seems like the major news outlets are constantly competing with each other to get the most out of a story, but there are many times where there is simply no new information for the public to know. 


I personally feel like the biggest problem with this is due to the fact that there is 24-hour news.  There is automatic competition, without anything new being sent out to the public in any kind of news story.



The final point of criticism I would like to bring up is the photography aspect.  This criticism is involved with any kind of tragedy. The photo reporter is responsible for capturing the moments, but some of these moments are incredibly painful and personal for that person.  Should we as reporters introduce ourselves to the subject, or is it simply our job to act as that fly on the wall and get what we see out there?



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One Comment
  1. jkotoch permalink

    I agree that covering news puts journalists up against some pretty interesting ethical dilemmas. In the case of the shooting coverage (or any other news coverage for that matter), I think that the real problem is that the mainstream news that covers stories like these for weeks at a time are motivated by profits, not quality journalism. The reporting errors made during the coverage of the shootings are a result of the news race. The mentality is that more viewers will watch, say, CNN if CNN breaks a story faster than MSNBC for example. The race to break news faster than the other guys will allow news stations to hold onto viewers increasing ratings. With high viewership numbers, the business people running the show off-air go to advertisers with high viewership as a selling point. Those companies are more than willing to throw cash at the channel with the high viewership because it will mean more bang for their advertising buck. Instead of taking time to fact check and confirm information, these news giants blurt out anything that sounds believable.

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