Friday, July 24, 2009

And now for some made-up news!

Canadian readers will be familiar with a case in Kingston right now where a father, mother and son murdered three members of their family plus the father's first wife.

Newsworthy? Absolutely.

I'm holding off on commenting more specifically on this case because the details have yet to emerge and I'm sick of the xenophobia around it. Let more credible information come forward and then I will discuss it.

Do you hear that I know you desperately want to improve the traffic to your site/TV show/radio shows but when you start making stories out of nothing just to keep things flowing, and you're losing credibility.

Headline reads: Canal-death charges stun Montreal neighbours.

Really? You think? This would only be news worth if the neighbours weren't surprised. There would be a story in that case. If they weren't surprised then maybe there would have been signs, more people coming forward and the whole thing could have been prevented.

This story, much like the kidnapping/murder of Victoria Stafford, is being dragged in the media with "journalists" interviewing neighbours and the like for no other reason than to add sensationalism to the story.

If you are the neighbour of someone who was murdered and you are not surprised that said person was murdered or that your neighbour had a part in it, then please come forward to be interviewed. I'd like to hear what you have to say.

Journalist David Cullen refers to it as the "Columbine Effect". The massacre at Columbine High School was the first big moment when anybody who knew somebody, who knew somebody else at Columbine was considered a "witness" or someone worthy of talking to. He blames new technologies and the increase in media coverage. Basically, every student that came running out of that school, whether they saw anything or not, were interviewed and instantly broadcast around the world.

The result?

1- Misinformation spreads like wildfire. There were several shooters, there was one shooter, there were hundreds murdered, there were a few, etc. No consistency here because people who were clearly in shock blurted out a few lines and suddenly, it was fact.

2- Increased sensationalism. Victims, witnesses or even random passersby would provide a few lines or a lengthy discussion on the issue and one line of it would be broadcast as this earth shattering revelation of sorts. Often it was never a big deal in the first place or it wasn't even true. Think: the worst game of telephone ever played.

Although this might not seem to directly relate to the coverage of the latest murders in Canada or even the murder of Tori Stafford, I believe it does. I believe they are all part of the same new "journalism" where actual facts may or may not be important and the relevance of something is rarely measured.

The saddest part of all is that people are buying it, literally and figuratively. So it's up to us all to stop wanting to be a part of the show and to stop buying into sensationalist media. Although we live in a society doused in instant gratification, the world doesn't operate that way. Give it time and the truth will eventually come out. But it probably won't come from you.

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