Sunday, March 13, 2011

Covering Disasters or Andy Warhol Comes to TV News...

It's happening again. A crisis or a disaster occurs and news reader celebrities fly into the disaster area to anchor the coverage thanks to the fact that we now live in an era of satellite communications. This happened in New Orleans. This happened in Haiti. Now it is happening in Japan.

Having news readers in New Orleans or Haiti or Japan doesn't, by the way, improve coverage. It just means, sadly, that journalism has become something of an ADD medium. News, particularly American news, has become a medium which sends in the big guns (who usually know little about the story, who usually don't speak the language if it isn't English, and who usually know little of the history) to pump up the coverage and then leave once the "crisis" is over. And once they leave and reports on the crisis decline the crisis becomes out of mind and hence out of sight for most of the masses back home.

Since the "crisis" is never over, however, think New Orleans and Haiti, the news media, particularly the TV news media which has become more and more ADD over time, thanks in part to cable, thanks in part to communication changes that have been occurring for some time, communication processes that have impacted human perception particularly in the West. The media, in other words, have come to increasingly reflect a kind of Andy Warhol mentality: every crisis gets its fifteen minutes of fame and then the media moves on to the next car crash. This way of doing the news, of course, doesn't provide any understanding of the long term causes or consequences of "disasters" nor does it help organisations who are trying to raise monies for disasters which have long term consequence and require a long term commitment of monies to do something about them (once out of mind giving for them declines). And thanks to it all ignorance has bliss as virtually everyone forgets about the problems of New Orleans, Haiti, and now, Japan.

A few other observations and questions: Note that so many American networks were and are relying on the BBC and ITN. Does this say something about contemporary private American network news compared to British news? Does it say something about American exceptionalism or parochialism? When private news organisations cut correspondents do they cut overseas correspondents first because of cost and American naval gazing? American "world news" after all is primarily focused on what is happening in the US. Compare this to many European countries which have domestic AND foreign news programmes. Note that at least some of the BBC TV correspondents in Haiti spoke French. Did news celebrities making their way into Haiti jam up aeroports and, in the process, inhibit aid from getting into Haiti?

No comments:

Post a Comment