There are thoughts inside me that I have wanted to open up for public consideration for some time. However, each time I have sat down to write them, a tragedy has occurred in one corner or another of our country, our world, that it has seemed gauchely inappropriate to post them. (I thought people might think I was making light of Bombing X or Tornado Y or Gun Rampage Z, etc.) Then I realized there would never be an appropriate time to share my thoughts, as the ubiquity and pervasiveness of tragedy is part of the very theme itself.
In the late 1990’s, I was a senior news editor in Washington DC. For a two-year period, it was my job to oversee the transcription of the daily news cycle, first on CNN, then on National Public Radio. I will never forget my first day on the job at CNN: it was the day of the Capitol Hill Murders–July 1998, if I recall correctly.
I worked a 20-plus-hour shift and continuously edited the “breaking news” coverage of the rampage of an idiotic gunman who took hostage our nation’s capital–and viciously stole the lives of several human beings.
As a nation and world, we couldn’t get enough.
One month later, I found myself traveling to Seattle, Washington, for the wedding of two dear friends. Their beautiful ceremony of love occurred in the aftermath of the U.S. Embassy bombing in Kenya. I still feel shame from my first thought of learning the news via an airport television report: “Thank God I’m not at work.”
The internet was nascent enough that most of us, then, were not exposed à la carte to the daily horrors of our world as we are now.
When I left Washington and moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, I threw away my television. I couldn’t stand the news anymore. A theory began to grow inside me.
Over time, I re-assimilated into being a consumer of media tragedy. September 11, 2001, reintegrated me.
Tomorrow morning when we wake up, any number of godawful tragedies will have occurred in various corners of our globe. And throughout the day, media will present us with coverage of a select number of tragic events, be they the result of Mother Nature’s coldness or human beings bent on proving we do not deserve our sentience.
But what, to me–or at least to me today–is most upsetting is that the horrors of tomorrow and the rest of the week that become an essential part of our daily conversations and concerns are the ones that media hand-selects for us. Trust me, of the many horrors that will befall our global neighbors tomorrow, there are many that will not “make the cut” for essential media exposure.
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