In (“Is Street Photography A Violation Of Privacy, Or Ethics?“), I touched on the topic of how local news has immense influence on our perception of security and safety in modern society. Maybe I’m not giving people enough credit, but it seems to me most are suffering from a severe case of reality distortion, a result of seeing the world through the lens of the local news broadcast, or cable news, or any other ratings-driven news outlet.
As the saying goes, “If it bleeds, it leads.”
It’s not enough to inform people, that’s a quaint idea from a bygone era. News has to grab your attention, then scare the shit out of you. Rinse and repeat. Have you ever really stopped to think about what we label as “news”? When you watch your local news broadcast, especially if you live in or near a major city, the first 10 minutes is almost always awash in stories of shootouts, murders, armed robberies, fires, and car accidents. Meanwhile, the rest of us in the viewing area, in other words, everyone (99.9%+) not affected by these (yes) isolated events, get to “learn” about them because somehow this will teach us something, or help us in some way. Really? I mean, why do we accept that these types of stories are “news”? They are the same violent stories every day, on autorepeat. Is this a public service?
I believe this daily reinforcement of all that is bad in society, without proper context and understanding that these are the exceptions, not the norms, is harmful to our collective mental health. At the very least, it plays into our fears and anxieties, making us believe the world is a more dangerous place than it actually is. And in turn, this impacts the policies we support, the politicians we vote for, and so on.
For anyone who regularly questions societal norms, it is obvious much of what we call “news” in 2014 is nothing more than a spectator sport, and a violent one at that. It’s not that you can’t find real news or journalistic value in your local half-hour news broadcast, but most of the stories reported during the first half of the program are not representative of the city or town the broadcast originates from. Even in the most violent areas of a city, people go about their daily lives, working, providing for their families, and they are not consumed with crime and violence every step of the way. I’m not making light of the crime that does occur in these locations, and the innocent people it effects, I’m simply trying to put things in proper context and perspective. Even in the most dangerous locations, most people are decent, law-abiding human beings, and in any of these neighborhoods, you can find people doing good deeds and making a difference for their community. But that’s not a compelling enough story, and it ain’t gonna pay the bills, so instead, let’s hear about the 100th murder this year, because that’s serving the greater public good, right?