It ain’t over when it’s over

It ain’t over when it’s over

: If you think media has overdosed on coverage of the Schiavo case, just wait until she dies. What should be a sad moment in a tragic story, a private mourning for her family — yes, all the family — will become, instead, a most public spectacle, you can be sure.

The rhetoric of the people before the cameras in Florida and Washington has gotten hotter and hotter. The crowds in Florida are growing. I fear the Schiavo riots, I really do.

There are a lot of ministers and people trumpeting Christianity down there. I hope some of them remember that this is a religion of forgiveness, grace, and peace — remember that turning the other cheek thing, folks. Unfortunately, though, it is the men of the cloth who’ve been the angriest on TV.

I’ll bet we’ll see shrines beyond those for Elian Gonzalez. This story will not end soon.

What I’m really afraid of is that Fox will bring back John Edwards, the flim-flam TV man who says he talks to the dead — yes, they interviewed even him on this story. Then we’ll hear Terri speak.

Jon Stewart says: “The Schiavo feeding tube will soon be removed from the cable news networks.” (Make sure to watch it.)

Now, of course, I was part of that feeding frenzy, doing reports on what the blogs said about Schiavo for MSNBC. I did that once, earlier in the story, and found lots of prayers and really nothing being said on the other side; there wasn’t an other side online TV wants another side. They asked me to do it again, later, and I protested that we wouldn’t see anything new, just more prayers; we wouldn’t see two sides and cable news wants two sides. But I was wrong. In the meantime, Congress got involved; the story was now not just a media spectacle but also a political spectacle. Now there was plenty of talk on the blogs about the politics, the ethics, living wills, media. The comments in this blog alone exploded with discussion. The people were indeed talking about the story. So I reported it… more than once. (I leave it to you to judge my culpability in adding to the spectacle.)

Last night on Connected, I was glad to see Ron Reagan go after the people who’ve issued the most inflammatory rhetoric, accusing the judges in the case of wanting to murder Schiavo. Ron also asked one of the guests during the same segment in which I reported, again, on what the blogs were saying: Is media overdoing this; is this spectacle media’s fault? I think he was as shocked as I was at the answer: The guest said no; the people were talking about this case and so it’s OK for media to talk about it.

Hmmm. Chicken: Meet egg.

This, we are learning, is the nature of 24-hour news. It’s no longer about picking the top stories and packaging them in a paper or a show. I’ve said before that we used to wait for the news to come to us and now the news waits for us to come to it. So now we turn on the TV and expect to see the hottest story. And each cable channel fears being the one on right then without the hottest story. So we all get the hottest story all the time. And the problem is that all “hottest stories” become equal: war = Terri Schiavo = Michael Jackson.

I’m not sure what the solution to that is. I’d like to see one of them try a format that guarantees the rest of the news, what else is happening in the world. I’d watch that.

In the meantime, in the Schiavo story, I hope we see some restraint from the participants and from the media. We’ll see….