Jeff Goldstein had a rather detailed post up today, outlining how the major media outlets jumped the shark on the Katrina coverage. The press put out all kinds of news, that ended up being… well: Not entirely accurate.
No bodies in the freezer at the Superdome. No little babies had their throats slit after being raped. No one was forced into cannibalism after only three days on soggy triscuits. No.
It was all… what? A lie?
“Lie” is a strong word. The reporters weren’t lying. They just weren’t telling the truth – that is to say, the reality as they actually knew it to be. Which, you know: People have come to expect as something of a reportorial standard.
Goldstein ably dissects the media malfeasance, but you and I know that they were really only giving the people what they want. What we want. No one tunes in to hear about the airliner that lands on time – they want to see the plane crash. People aren’t really interested in how many schools have been opened in Iraq since the war ended – they want to hear about the suicide bomber. The story of the poor folks bearing stolidly up under difficult conditions is non-compelling – we want to hear about the atrocities.
The media folks are in a business. A damned competitive business. They’re trying to make a buck or two. Silly to blame them for giving us what we want.
What we should be asking is: Why do we want this?