A media attack

The attack on the Boston Marathon was designed to maximize media coverage: a popular event with cameras everywhere and a narrative that will be sure to follow about innocent enjoyment henceforth ruined by danger.

For years, we’ve been told to fear this: an attack on a football game or at Disneyland or in a mall, someplace without fear before. Instead, it happened at the marathon. No matter who committed this crime, a precedent is now set for those that unfortunately will follow. Now every time there is a popular event with many cameras that is open — not easily contained like a stadium — we will be taught to worry.

A few weeks ago in New Delhi, I stayed in a hotel that happened to be owned by the same company that suffered the terrorist attack in Mumbai. Every car coming in was searched; every guest went through a metal detector; every guest’s bag went through an X-ray. We’re accustomed to such circumstantial security in America: If a shoe is used to make a bomb, all shoes are dangerous. In India, hotels are dangerous. In America, not just office buildings and airports but now public events are threatened.

But the new factor this time — versus 9/11 or London’s bombings or Mumbai’s attacks or even the Atlanta Olympics’ — is the assured presence of media cameras at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. This was the media-centered attack.

But here’s a touch of irony: On prime-time TV, the three major networks didn’t alter their programming to continue covering this event.* That tells us that terrorism is worth wall-to-wall coverage somewhere between two and 3,000 deaths. Boston, apparently, wasn’t big enough.

But at least on cable news, there is plenty of video of the blast and its immediate aftermath to loop over and over and over again.

* Correction: I should have complained that the broadcast networks did not preempt primetime. When I wrote this, I turned to all three networks and each had entertainment programming. As fans of an NBC show pointed out to me, their show was indeed preempted later in the night.

  • http://dresramblings.com Andre Natta

    I’m watching NBC network coverage right now – during prime time. Sometimes it makes sense to take a break and make sure what’s being shared is accurate and not just noise.

  • Andy Kropa

    Are you familiar with “The Decline of Sport” — E.B. White’s 1947 satirical essay for the New Yorker?

  • Pingback: Media Monday Edmonton: Update #74 - MasterMaq's Blog

  • aGuyWithAlotOfTime

    I saw your comment about the Senate having blood on their hands. Some say background checks are our only answer, some say there will be no added effect. Some say that the way the media covers events like this is part of the problem. Will you give a big “Fuck you” to the media also? No of course not, you’re part of it.

  • http://www.bagnewsnotes.com Michael Shaw

    I’m not sure the attack was designed to maximize media coverage. If that was the case, the detonations would have been timed to take place four hours earlier.

  • http://www.redstarcreative.co.uk/ Andy Kinsey

    So … 6 days on, how do things feel in hindsight?

  • Pingback: How Should We Handle Tragedy In The Digital Age?