TV News Networks and Tragedies: A Match Made in Ratings Heaven!


“We have breaking news just in!”

“Stay tuned, you won’t find this information ANYWHERE else!”

“We are the only ones on the scene!”

“Our sources are reporting…”

“Do not miss our EXCLUSIVE interview with…”

“If you remember, [insert network] was the first to bring you…”

These are just a few phrases you could have heard uttered on the various news networks over the last couple of days, following the bombing in Boston. As a result, like every tragedy involving mass-violence and death, the television news networks become a feeding frenzy of information and “breaking” stories. It almost becomes a game between networks, and within networks, individual reporters, between who can be the first to bring their viewing audiences the bits of information that are being released from law enforcement agencies and “trusted sources”. While waiting for this information, which, admittedly, we can do nothing with once we receive it, the networks and their reporters are sure to drum up as much drama as they humanly can, without appearing to actually be cheering for the one bomber who is still on the loose, to not be captured right away, so they can drag the coverage on even more. Is there such thing as news anymore? A straightforward reporting of the facts and broadcasting of interviews without unneccesary sensationalist showmanship getting in the way? Is it so much for the reporters to show even one fraction of an iota of respect for the victims and their families, without promoting their own egos and agenda?

It truly appears that these cretins actually enjoy bad news. I firmly believe that they sit around the studio on a slow news day praying for someone to shoot up a school, or maybe blow up a building. Maybe they even hope for a high-speed chase or shootout with the police so they can go live on the scene for something more than a recap. How else can we explain all of this seemingly bent up enthusiasm for horror and murder that we have witnessed on television? I understand network ratings increase quite drastically in times of tragedy, and that is only fair, but the actual reporters who we have to stare at could be just a little bit more restrained. The fake sense of sadness and sympathy does not work for me—deep down, they are saying to themselves, “Please, don’t get caught, not just yet! I need a few more hours of face time here and I cannot afford to have to break away from me in the studio to go live on the scene to someone else!”

The worst of the lot has to be ABC’s Diane Sawyer, who takes a sadistic, fetish-like pleasure in reporting the deaths that result from tragedies. Slowly and carefully enunciating every syllable of every word out of her mouth, she tilts her head ever so slightly and angles her eye-line down to give off the appearance of pain, then dramatically pausing close to the end of her sentence before she allows the other reporters, or interviewees, in the broadcast a chance to answer or chime in. Seeing what is going on with people like her, and Wolf Blitzer on CNN, who reports the news like he is the only person on television, makes me thankful that I was only nine years old on September 11th, too young to be able to critique a newscast. I could not imagine the happiness that must have engulfed the studios on that day, if events like the Boston bombing or Newtown shooting are any indication. Hell, it must have been like the World Series and Super Bowl condensed into one!

And what is the big deal about being the first to break something? Does anyone really keep track? Do networks get a monetary bonus for being the first channel to report a certain piece of news? And I love the whole “my sources are telling me” mantra that these drama-mongers use to make themselves seem more important. This is an investigation led by the FBI. There are tanks and soldiers with machine guns patrolling the streets of a city in lock-down. Just who exactly are your sources? This isn’t a free agent frenzy show on ESPN, this is coverage of an ongoing investigation looking for the perpetrator of a bombing that killed and maimed nearly two hundred people. Does it help you to sleep at night knowing that your cell phone’s texting plan may hold the key to your employers breaking the story first?

Reasons like this are why my viewing of television news was very limited during the Newtown school shooting, because I just could not bare the exploitation of the deaths of children in order to boost egos. I felt that it would be different this time around, but the fact that they can publicize a “manhunt” is proof positive that things will never change—they will just get worse. It is a sad day when someone like me would rather get news updates from Twitter than an established network like CNN, ABC, or FOX. These people should go home and take a long look in the mirror and see what they are all about, how in the face of a tragedy, they can just keep trumpeting their egos along like they are in a competition with a trophy awarded at the end of it all.

Breaking news! This just in: you are all scumbags and should be ashamed of yourselves. More at 11.

2 thoughts on “TV News Networks and Tragedies: A Match Made in Ratings Heaven!

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