Friday, August 03, 2007

James Lileks on the Minneapolis Bridge Collapse

Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist (and eminent Blogger) James Lileks has a continuously updated column that's a must-read for anyone who is interested in the Minneapolis I-35 Bridge collapse from a local perspective. I have mixed feelings about this story: I don't, for example, believe that the United States is living on borrowed time with regards to its road and bridges infrastructure. Some bridges need repair now, to be sure: but to conflate one incident with a imminent nationwide danger is exaggeration at best, fear-mongering irresponsibility at worst.

Of course, who is doing the fear-mongering?

National media is guilty first and foremost, with local media in cities other than Minneapolis following a close second. Quite simply, there is no reason for Chirs Cuomo to reporting live from Minneapolis, and even less reason for Chicago's local NBC-5 station to be sending their investigative reporter to do live feeds from the scene. I understand that there is ever-increasing pressure to fill newscasts with stories, whether they come from publicists hawking studies and celebrities or the NTSB.

What Lileks points out is the key query: "At what point is the story news, and at what point is it just Disaster P*rn****phy?"

The following excerpt says it all (

10:22 AM Headline over at KSTP:

“Hear the screams from inside the bus.”

You know what? I don’t want to hear the screams from inside the bus. I don’t want to hear someone’s kid shrieking in panic, begging her mom to come save her. Why would I?

This is the point in the story where we start to debate what’s news, and what’s just disaster-pr0n. I’m not making the comparison here, because they’re different events in every way. But nothing about 9/11 hit me as hard as the memorial wall on Grand Central Station, a collection of all the fliers and MISSING posters people had stuck up at the site after the Twin Towers were destroyed. They were mute, handmade pleas, and believe it or not, they didn’t need a voice over that said “for now the family sits and waits, wondering what the news will be” or whatever generic tag gets slapped at the end of the grieving-survivor boilerplate story.

I understand why they do those stories, but I have a hard time watchng them. I don’t want to wonder if the cameraman’s wondering how close he should go on the face to get the tears, because on one hand this person is experiencing great private grief, but on the other hand the light is hitting that teardrop just perfectly. Mostly I want them to leave the people alone. I don’t need to be told what they’re feeing. I can guess.

No comments: