Saturday morning, April 20, 2013
After spending much of the last 36 hours following the various coverages of what occurred in Boston (and West, Texas), a few observations:
I remember why I rarely turn on our TV.
There was a time when TV was the ‘go to’ medium when a national event, tragedy, news story happened. For me, that’s no longer the case. While TV can still provide some things no other medium can, it’s flaws are simply too big to ignore.
I switched between CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC (no FOX as I’m not sure it’s in my TV package). Eventually, once it was clear the TV stations no longer had ‘breaking’ events to cover, and they descended into speculation, inaccuracies, and self-promotion, I just shut it all off.
While a few of the so called ‘experts’ did have occasional important points to add, for the most part, there was simply repetition of on-the-ground reporters focused on where they were standing, moving, what they were seeing, not seeing, etc. Plus, the amount of inaccurate information on the various stations seemed to be competing for the audience’s attention. Whoever it was who said most of what you hear in the first 24 hours turns out to be wrong certainly had it right yesterday.
(On an even more personal note, I think I’ll boycott CNN until Wolf Blitzer retires or is retired, tho since I don’t watch that much TV, I doubt my boycott will have much effect.)
The Internet was better, tho not without some of the same flaws as TV.
Largely, I used my Twitter feed (I ‘follow’ 364 individuals, organizations, etc.) and through that I was led to some terrific sites and information as well as some junk. Maybe I need to cull my list, but I found there was competition there, just as on TV, by individuals/news sources trying to be first, in the know, and clever about what they were saying. So I guess it’s no surprise there were inaccuracies, speculation, and self-promotion there too.
What was best, in addition to some ‘breaking news’, was the lead to other sources of information, particularly to WBUR, some of the Boston Globe reporting, other newspaper summaries (NY Times and WSJ seemed particularly careful and accurate in what that reported), and some of the better of the TV interviews (without the endless intervening chatter). I linked into a police scanner, which at first seemed to put me ‘in the know’ until I discovered I really didn’t have sufficient context to truly understand what was important versus what was secondary.
There was also some very bad information that was passed on. See this article about Reddit, often called the ‘front page of the Internet, for an example of some of the inaccuracies that were on the Internet.
But the ability to choose quickly for myself which sites to pursue was excellent and so gave me a wide range of ‘information’ to consider and to evaluate for myself. Thus, along with the speed of the Internet, I felt better informed, tho cautious, about what was occurring.
At one point, when it seemed as if nothing ‘breaking’ was truly happening, I went to do an errand and turned on the radio in my rental car.
That was a mistake, at least when I was listening to the AM and FM channels. Mostly there were broadcasters and call in people who seemed even worse than what I had heard on TV. Things got a bit better when I retrieved my car which has Sirius radio, and I was able to spin the dial and get to stations that were more ‘professional’, tho since many of them were the same as the TV channels I complained about above, I was glad to get home and back to my ability to search through my iPad for a broad range of options.
Frequently, I found myself going to three or four newspaper sites for summaries of events that were better than the TV, radio, Internet sites, etc.
While I understand that the Boston story trumped the one from West, Texas, the almost total lack of focus on the tragedies and events there, with many more deaths and much more destruction, seemed simply wrong.
Whether that occurred because the Boston events were happening in real time, were ‘sexier’ to follow, and the outcome was not yet known, it bothered me that there was so little coverage of what had happened and was still happening in Texas.
(Asides: I was particularly struck that there wasn’t much mention of what seemed to me an important part of the Texas explosion story: the factory’s ability to operate despite violations of safety regulations. I know regulations are not liked by most businesses [I hated them too when I was running a school, and I also disliked the three year inspections and demands for corrections where we found ‘wanting’].
Check out this story by the Sunlight Foundation’s Reporting Group, In the Years Before Waco Explosion, Fertilizer Trade Groups Lobbied for Lax Oversight that attempts to explains how a business that has such dangers attached was able to escape regulation for at least the last 25 years. Also, if you missed this earlier MillersTime post, A Modest Proposal, check out how the bomb experts have been denied an important ‘weapon’ in their ability to track the source of explosive devices and what could easily be done to correct it.)
(Update: 4/22: Thanx to an email from Matt R, if you want to know why there will likely be another explosion like the one at West, Texas, see Bill Minutaglio’s article, Texas on Fire Again and Again in the NYTimes several days ago.)
Finally, I’d be interested in how you experienced coverage of the events of this last week and what sources of information you found particularly useful. Use the Comment section of this blog or use my email, Samesty84@gmail.com.
Couldn’t agree more. Nicole found a guy on twitter named @weeddude (seriously?) who had by far the best coverage out there. Starting at 6am that was all we needed. Take a look back.
Hugh Riddleberger said:
I, too, share your response to the TV coverage and Wolf Blitzer drove me crazy…John Stewart had a good segment on TV news inaccuracies a few days ago when news reports (CNN) claimed arrests had been made….worth watching..Tuesday or Wednesday episode..
I will say that where TV shines was simply to let the cameras run with no commentary…such as, at the end of the siege when people applauded the police and first responders as they left the Watertown neighborhood…it reminded me that we are all linked to each other and share a common bond..
On a personal note, the first house we bought was three blocks from where they captured the second suspect..and a block away from friends who still live in the area. Now, that was frightening and a little too close for comfort.
I agree, Uncle Richard. I did the same thing – switching around to see and hear different outlets coverage of events in Boston. Even in my car on satellite radio on the way to a work event downtown. I was surprised to hear Wolf Blitzer describing misinformation provided by John King a day earlier about potential suspects as “dark skinned males by saying ” sometimes we get information and try and get it out there quickly and HOPE IT IS ACCURATE” I was shocked to hear Blitzer say this in an apologetic tone for those remarks John King had made previously.
carol board said:
I found the coverage to be very repetitive. The same information, or misinformation, over and over. I just had to get away from it, and sence I have my TV on alot, I went to either Science, Animal Plant, National Geo. or anything that would not be “current events”. As for Fox, the broadcasters at night are generally irritating, however, sometimes the day time coverage is much better.
Also, I was surprised that there was so much less coverage of the Texas tragedy. My take on this was that, because it was probably an accident, the general population would not be as interested.
I couldn’t agree more with how you gather your information. I had flashbacks to watching OJ Simpson running away from the police while watching in the hospital. I found the mute button to be helpful for my sanity. But all I kept thinking about was how so many people get their info and how people believe it at face value. There are bigger issues at play with the coverage of Boston and Texas. I hate knowing how the press manipulates what they feel is important for us to know and then makes many an American “forget” about other issues.
Fruzsina Harsanyi said:
Well, we all agree that we can’t stand Wolf Blitzer! Other than that, I don’t share or care about most of your criticism. I’m long over the fact that breaking news breaks only for those who just tuned in and continuous coverage, i.e., the need to fill air time, is a function of the perceived demand to have 24/7 tv entertainment.
What I focused on was
1) the role of ordinary citizens and their phones and cameras in solving a crime. This has been true for some years, but the thousands who contributed this time and worked with police was impressive.
2) cooperation among law enforcement agencies. This should not be unique, but it is — the lack of it is the stuff of crime thrillers, the FBI agent who won’t work with the local sheriff, the intelligence agencies that don’t talk to each other. Boston was a model for how it should work.
3) the President’s remarks, focusing on the importance of not blaming groups for what individuals do (cf, Chuck Grassley’s remarks) and waiting for all the evidence to be in.
4) how in a minute lives can change forever.
Thanks for your comments, Richard. We’re in Miami — off to see “The Company We Keep.” F.
Nancy C Wilson said:
Right on, Rick,
I found most of the TV coverage repetitive and even misleading at times, however, as you say, the immediate live coverage was worth sifting through the dross–amongst which was the amazingly huge volley of gunfire aimed at the already wounded 19 year old cowering in a boat–whom we had all hoped to capture alive—It seemed rather excessive–even in light of the horrendous acts he had participated in–will he live to tell his story?
Now, however, I am more concerned about something important to me, as one of the demonstrators at the Capitol on Wednesday, April 10th, for Immigration Reform–
What is this tragic event going to do to our already fearful Congress regarding allowing a path to citizenship for so many “illegals” and hard-working third world visitors that looked to be on its way to a reasonable solution?
How do we get out of this cauldron of violence and fear???
Brian Steinbach said:
Well I have to say that through most of the day on Friday I mostly was toggling among the blogs on the Post, Times and CNN sites and found those were giving fairly good developing information from all sources, including the interview of the uncle and father and information about both suspects as gleaned from published sources and interviews with friends/acquaintances. Occasionaly inaccuracies, sure, but mostly corrected as well. Interesting to see some other sites/broadcast not keeping up with that. As the father of a son from Dagestan, that particularly interested me, and I thought it was important that ultimately it was made clear that this family, although of Chechen ethnicity, had lived for some time in Kirgystan and also had been in the US for over ten years.
That said – once I got home and shortly after it was announced that the lock down was over it became clear that the suspect likely was located – I was glued to live coverage on NBC, and for once it did not seem to be simply filler and repitition. Particularly noteworthy was Brian Williams’s willingness to simply pick up the feed from the local affiliate, which had more on the ground resources, or take calls from people within the perimeter, etc. Also notable was a DC based reported with contacts within the FBI who was getting more information sooner and more accurate than many in Watertown/Boston. Mary and I both commented that the two hours or so from 7-9 were very gripping. And I agree with the wonderful video of people congratulating the police in Watertown, and the very noteworthy coopearaton among all levels of law enforcement under the lead of the feds and the US Atty.
So, TV does best on actual breaking news when there is something to cover, but on the ground journalists did the best work throughout the day.
West, Texas is an enitre other story, of course, and it clearly got neglected.
One more vagrant thought – the suspect likely already knows his Miranda rights and may well assert them on his own, mooting the argument about when he should be read those rights.
Brian Steinbach said:
Properly spelled Kyrgyzstan
Brian Steinbach said:
Before Rick has a chance to correct me (since I always correct his spelling), I should have spelled it “Kyrgyzstan”