Shafer on V.Tech Coverage

From Slate:

    Today, the Hotline spotted this craven dodge in online postings to Facebook by ABC and NBC. Both networks extend their sympathies to everyone at Virginia Tech affected by the killing, but add, hey, if you knew Cho Seung-Hui, “we have anchors and producers on campus that would love to meet with you” (ABC), and “We have producers and camera crews nearby ready to talk to anyone who can supply information about him and his movements leading up to the tragedy” (NBC).

    A commuter jet falls out of the sky in Indiana, killing 32 people. It’s a big story, but reporters don’t fan out across the land to collect the sorrows of the surviving families. The topic doesn’t fill the entire news hole. But if a student slays 32 young innocents, the press goes into overtime. Why should only the latter calamity rise to the level of a national obsession?

    Because not all random, tragic deaths are equally horrifying. We handle accidental deaths by blaming fate, and then eventually make our peace. But murders committed at random discompose us at a primal level. They rob us of the false sense of security we use each night to tuck our children in to sleep. The Virginia Tech shootings also marked a new American death record, a detail that many outlets keep repeating to rationalize the news torrent they’re producing. Add to all of the above the fact that the lives stolen were still green, that none of the promise nurtured by loving parents can ever be fulfilled, and you’ve got immeasurable sorrow. And immeasurable sorrow breeds immeasurable interest—not just from journalists, but from news consumers as well.

Read the rest here.