The man-blows-up-man story
: John Tierney has a super column in The Times today with long-needed journalistic self-examination of our coverage of “suicide bombers,” as we’ve dubbed these insane murders. Tierney says he doesn’t read these stories anymore, except the ones he had to report and write:
When the other reporters and I finished filling our notebooks, we wondered morosely if we could have done a service to everyone – victims, mourners, readers – by reducing the story to a box score. We all knew the template: number of victims, size of the crater, distance debris had been hurled, height of smoke plume, range at which explosion was heard.
There was no larger lesson except that some insurgents were willing and able to kill civilians, which was not news. We were dutifully presenting as accurate an image as we could of one atrocity, but we knew we were contributing to a distorted picture of life for Iraqis….
Correspondents complained that they’d essentially become cop reporters, and that the suicide bombings took so much of their time that they couldn’t report on the rest of the country. They were more interested in other stories, but as long as the rest of the press corps kept covering the bombing du jour, that was where their editors and producers expected them to be, too….
I’m not advocating official censorship, but there’s no reason the news media can’t reconsider their own fondness for covering suicide bombings. A little restraint would give the public a more realistic view of the world’s dangers…
Terrorists know the numbers are against them and realize that daily bombings will not win the war. All along, their hope has been to inspire recruits and spread general fear with another tactic, the bombing as photo opportunity. For some reason, their media strategy still works.