Every day I lose more and more faith in what we call “the news.”
By now we’ve all heard about the tragedy in Boston. Over the last few days, the focus has shifted from the victims to capturing the bastards behind this atrocity. And in the process of finding the suspects, we’ve once again seen the worst of mainstream and social media, despite how well-intentioned some efforts may have been. From the erroneous reporting of capture by the Associated Press and CNN and the subsequent moonwalking to clean up their mess, to the stereotypically stated descriptions of the suspects, this has been a complete shit show.
There are a few things that I find bothersome other than the reckless disregard for life. Let me highlight three reasons why we hate the media sometime — or maybe it’s just me. I’ll let you decide.
Stereotypes as usual. Perpetuation at its finest.
The first description we heard of the suspect was a dark-skinned man with an accent. This man then apparently attempted a Sammy Sosa and had to settle for brown. But when the photos were released on Thursday afternoon, we saw two very light and possibly white guys that look like they do keg stands and use “bro” as their biggest term of endearment.
Honestly, I could care less about the race of the assailants. I just want them caught. I do care about the inherent racial undertones and stereotypes that infectiously spread in the era of viral everything. I’m sure every black, blue, or brown-skinned man with an accent caused ill-ease when boarding buses, trains, and elevators the next day. And because we’re programmed to find an ounce of truth in stereotypes, we had a familiar image in our heads of what this person looked like.
Internet sleuths and social media investigators feeding mainstream media.
A ton of pictures surfaced of potential suspects due to a tech savvy user group and the internet doing what it does. Innocent people’s pictures were posted all over the web. One of which made it to the front page of often tasteless New York Post. Can you imagine waking up in the morning to find yourself on the front page of a newspaper as a possible terrorist suspect? Uncool story, bro.
This is why I hate the internet sometimes.
Apparently being first is better than being accurate.
With the increased saturation of the blogosphere and news outlets, reporting has shifted from accuracy to speed. CNN is the most visible example here, even though they have a history of bringing up the rear in reporting. There was a point in time when it was more important to be accurate than first. But nowadays everybody wants to be the blog commenter that leaves the first comment as soon as a post goes live in an effort to be seen and patted on the back by a warm breeze.
Today’s news has a one hour delay on the truth. Unfortunately, too many social media users haven’t figured that out yet. As a result, wrong information touches all corners of the earth in seconds.
As optimistic as I’d like to be, I have no faith in this getting better. We’ll just have to get better at waiting and discerning who we trust. But that’s life and it’s a cold world. May the media continue to make disasters messier than they already are.
What say you on the media mess?
UPDATE: Authorities have identified the suspects. One was killed overnight and the other is on the loose. Their names have also been floating around the internet. All of this transpired after this post was written.