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Media and Emotional Expression

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Jenna Lee wrote a very interesting piece on RealClearPolitics that concludes:

Freedom of the press matters to a healthy democracy, and our Republic begins and ends with putting priority on the freedom of its citizens—freedom to make up their own minds, cast their own votes and tell their own stories. If the priority for journalists refocused to the consumer, tense moments will become less personal between the press and those in power, and journalism can provide the crucial public service intended.

If not, I fear that when the time comes for the American Press to step to the stage, quiet the crowd and deliver a report that can impact the very survival of the nation, no one will listen.  And if there’s one take away from my dispatch from “Real America,” American journalists are very close to that point of no return.

That struck me as oh so true as I read the coverage of the Borderline mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, CA.  The contrast between the host’s interview with survivor Tyler Spady, the morning of, with the NY times, multi-interview account is stunning.  Much of the difference lies in the interview subject, of course.  Spady clearly had his head about him when others did not.  But that said, Spady did not have an overall perspective, it was still a personal perspective.  But Spady spoke in facts, (This happened to me, that happened to me, I did this) while the multiple interviews in the NY times spoke in feelings and impressions. (I was afraid)  The NYTimes interviewer was either failing to ask for facts, or those being interviewed were utterly incapable of supplying them.  In either case that the Old Gray Lady let that be the lead story in their morning email this morning speaks to much about the state of journalism and the nation generally..

When you combine that with the fact that the NYTimes piece, by working hard to make connections with last year’s Las Vegas massacre and the Borderline mass shooting, seems to want to imply that there is a connection between violence and country and western music the void that has become journalism becomes quite apparent.  I wonder why we do not see such connections regarding, oh I don’t know, rap music which is routinely and loudly about violence against police, women and each other?  Could there be an agenda involved?

But I want to return to the recounting of feelings as some kind of reporting.  That is a reflection of a dangerous trend and not just in journalism.  It is as if the event is about someone’s emotional reaction to it rather than the event itself and what actually happened.  Is not so much of today’s politics about people’s emotional reactions as opposed to the actual events?  It is almost as if the comments matter more than the story.  This has two effects.

One, if people see that being presented as reporting then they begin to think that such is what is important to them in any given circumstances.  They begin to view the world through their emotional reactions and not as events.  Two, people are generally compelled to express their emotional reactions and hence they run to some form of media.  Whether it is to be interviewed by the Old Gray Mare, er, Lady or social media, they think their reactions must be “shared.”  Is it any wonder then that Facebook and Twitter look like they do?  And are as contentious as they are?

Finally, it produces the effect that has Jenna Lee so concerned.  In the end, no one listens.  They are too consumed with their own emotional reaction to be bothered.  Besides, they do not want to listen to someone else’s reaction, they just want to express their own.


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