Wednesday: Popular American Culture and Politics

Alleged News Coverage

I’m going to take this opportunity to complain about something that can’t be changed.  In fact, it well may be that it shouldn’t be changed.

But it bugs me.  So I’m going to bitch. 

News coverage these days is wanting.  CNN has kowtowed to cat videos.  Fox punditry is a laugh riot.  NBC rarely bothers veiling its vitriol for the GOP.  

But what bugs me the most is that news coverage must, out of some fear of legal reprisal, qualify every statement it makes.  In the past month, between Marathon bombs and 10-year kidnappings, between parade shootings and factory collapses, no one is at fault.  How is that possible?

Media hawks have no problem trespassing on property to gain the right paparazzi gold shot.  They sensationalize unreservedly, mountain-ing the molehills at every possible opportunity.  They find expert character references by interviewing the friend of a friend of a second cousin once-removed who this one time was at a party with the guy.  And yet, the dead Marathon bomber is still “alleged.”  The psychotic Ohio kidnapper “may” have held three women agains their will for 10 years.  And the man in the photograph who’s pointing a gun at the people marching in the second-line parade in New Orleans this weekend?  He “could be” a shooter.

Seriously?  Why all the mitigating language?  Are libel laws so convoluted so as to allow fully sensationalized vetting of a story, but without “may” and “possibly” and “alleged,” you’re in trouble?  Never mind that plastering the faces of people all over a story will forever brand them as culprits, even if you prefaced everything with “allegedly.”  Just ask Ariel Castro’s brothers.  I get it.  They could have sued you if they’re proven innocent and you proclaimed them guilty.  But are we really still unsure that their brother kidnapped those women?  And are we really still referring to Tsarnaev as “the alleged Marathon bomber”?   

The legal line gets drawn when the gavel falls, sure.  But no one reading the Breaking News Clip about the House of Horrors is registering any of your half-hearted attempts to diminish your clear proclamation of culpability.   

Shoot first.  Ask questions later.  Maybe.  

Better yet:  Address questions if someone else answers them for you. 

Even NPR was making connections between Chechnya and the Taliban before we even knew the names of both men involved in the bombing.  

What I want is a legit news feed that covers just facts, with no assumptions or presumptions or it’s-very-possible-maybe-that stories.  Just tell me when something is true.  Label the rest “educated guesses” and take all the fluff about pickles and rubber duckies and 7-month-old water-skiers and put it in the “crap you might be bored enough to read” section. 

And that’s all I have to say about that.





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