Prison Op/Ed Project: Time to change what we consider ‘newsworthy’

The ACIJust about every broadcast television station has a reporter speak during a commercial break about a highlighted event to be featured on the scheduled news time slot “coming up.” By vast majority, it will contain something that involves a natural disaster, a fire, a car accident, terrorism, a murder, or a weather event.

Why is it that we are so interested and captivated with these types of stories? Why do peoples’ social interactions change while experiencing a tragedy?

In 1978 I was 10 and living in Woonsocket during the great blizzard. The February storm dumped 58 inches of snow at my house, crippling the area. Days later, stories evolved, including my own positive experiences.

Neighbors came out of their homes. People spoke, some for the first time, while living next to each other for years. Everybody was helping each other to dig out of the snow. The world had almost stopped revolving for a short time. People were almost taking on an altered personality.

But the media coverage was more interested in how many people died resulting from it, how much businesses lost, and the damages caused by the storm.

Many things get completely discarded as not “newsworthy.” What about all of the many friendships that were formed? What about the people who saved others by rescuing them, or taking food or water to people who were unable to get it?

Worldwide disasters mirror this story. In Hurricane Katrina, there were endless images of the major flooding in the New Orleans area. All about the levees that failed, the looting, and the fires set by rioting thugs in the area. But, alas, after the storm event was over, the many news crews moved on to the next “newsworthy” story that they could report on to keep their ratings up, and to keep talking head reporters speaking.

It really isn’t surprising to believe that the world is going to hell in a hand basket. Modern society is completely fascinated by death, disasters, and violence, and is becoming very desensitized to the way these things become part of daily life. Is there any correlation of anxiety and exponential use of pharmaceutical drugs for depression and anxiety? I believe this relationship is worth examining.

Not surprisingly, it took weeks for the press and news crews to return to New Orleans to cover the slow arrival of US FEMA there. This a primarily black, lower income population area. However, if the population were more of a white middle class, would the response have been much faster? I believe it would have.

In any type of natural or man-made disaster, there are many unsung, unidentified Clark Kents, Mother Teresas or Bruce Waynes that are never seen nor acknowledged (other than by God, who sees and knows our hearts and actions).

Among all the negativity and outward appearance of the world, there are still many good people left out there. It’s time for a change. Instead of giving people who do such heinous acts such as killing over 30 children in a CT school, or setting off bombs at the Boston Marathon for their 15 seconds of fame, let’s end it. The people should not be named, nor shown in pictures. Maybe there would be fewer incidents or this type of attack on innocent people. Modern society is to blame for this. Enough is enough—it’s time to stop the exposure, end the madness, and change the direction and process of reporting the news in all its forms.

Maybe, just maybe, people would be more helpful, more friendly, and more optimistic about people and our society as a whole. It is time to focus more on the victims than the perpetrators.

This post is published as part of the Prison Op/Ed Project, an occasional series authored by CCRI sociology students who are incarcerated at the Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institute. Read more here:

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David DuBois is a Rhode Islander currently serving a sentence at the RI Adult Correctional Institutions.

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