The crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 has underscored the new sensationalism of the media in pursuit of ratings and to provide non-probative horrific details. I have watched the coverage of the air tragedy over the least several days and like many, was horrified by the discovery that the event appeared to be intentional. While it is important for the media to explain to the public what happened, it is also important to consider the families of the victims and the reportedly mentally unstable pilot. It is the latter where the media has failed miserably.
Do we really need to know what the last moments of the victims were like? Does this information provide any critical information to the public that is not already assumed? Once it was discovered that the event appeared to be an intentional downing of the plane by one of the pilots, why do we need to know that the passengers could be heard screaming? We don't and neither do the loved ones of those who perished. It is sensational journalism at its worst.
If the lack of sensitivity in describing the final moments of the flight were not enough, reporters are constantly using coarse language like "retrieving body parts" and saying the plane "slammed into the mountain." It is the responsibility of reporters and editors to determine the tenor of the descriptions of a tragedy in a story. While it is important to be descriptive and colorful to make a story interesting to the reader, it is the job of the reporter and editor to weigh that goal against simple sensationalism. It seems that the new media standard is every gory detail that can be uncovered should be communicated. How many times does the public need to see remnants of the plane? What value does a shot the wreckage provide other than to make everyone who flies feel uncomfortable and to horrify the victims' families over and over again?
Is it impossible for the media in the 24-hour news age to show concern for those who have lost loved ones? Has the media become so consumed with communicating every detail of a story that they have forgotten that these are people they are talking about with thousands of grieving family members listening?
Should the media describe the final moments of every murder victim? Of course not. Then why has there been such coarseness in the coverage of Germanwings Flight 9525? Imagine if the victim was your mother, father, brother or sister. Would you want to hear the heinous descriptions that most of the media has been proffering?
The media should take a moment and decide what is of probative or investigative value when dealing with a tragedy like Germanwings Flight 9525. Can we give the victims' families the same deference that we give military families or victims of terrorism? In many of the tragic events faced by members of the military, there are communications and recordings of the final moments but they are not communicated to the public out of respect for the family and to not sensationalize the tragedy. Don't families who experience tragic plane related events deserve the same respect?
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