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Lula Beresford-Banker: Lines blur between media coverage and TV dramas

To the editor:

Usually, during an important news story, I listen to NPR at my home in Leverett, where I do not have a television. Or if I miss the radio coverage, I read it in the Gazette or the Times the next day. This past week, however, I was away from home, and watched news coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing aftermath and “manhunt” on television in my hotel room.

Now it’s true I enjoy crime shows as much as the next person, and part of my complaint can be directed toward shows like “Law and Order” and “NCIS.” The shows do dramatize terrible crimes and situations in a way that makes these atrocities appealing to watch. That is a bit twisted.

However, when watching CNN or NBC or Fox’s coverage of the issue there was very little that differentiated the coverage of the news from a crime show. Both used dramatic music, quick changing camera angles, close-ups of weeping victims and incredibly excessive language to make a show that was fascinating to watch and listen to, even as very little new news rolled in.

I realize that news programs have to make a profit, and the Boston marathon was an unspeakable tragedy that has been on the minds of all Americans this past week, so covering it was obviously going to generate viewership. It was and is an issue of huge national importance, so the news covered it. But the way the stations were covering it made me cringe — I felt as if the dramatization of the news was not only giving America a version of the events that blurred the lines between made-up criminals and made-up crimes, and real criminals and real crimes — but also that the news stations were disrespecting the victims and all those involved — blatantly trying to jack up the emotions of viewers was simply unnecessary. It’s not as if the event wasn’t emotional and tragic enough just as it was.

This line between fake horror and real horror seems to be disappearing, and I find that grotesque.

Lula Beresford-Banker


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