Tragedy and the Media

January 29, 2000

When you turn on the TV, you see many culture-defining forms of entertainment. The rise of sleazy talk shows, the growing popularity of thoughtless pop culture icons, the daily broadcasts of the president's sex life ... and one of the most recent forms of American entertainment seems to be school shootings.

cont. from lifestyle

Shocking yet highly addictive, these telecasts of school shootings are a growing and very popular form of media. Conversation around the water-cooler is "Where will the next one be?"

Kids are afraid to attend school for fear that the last thing they see in this world will be the barrel of a gun.

These school shootings have become a trend just as bell-bottoms did in the '60s and baggy pants did in the '90s.


I have only one question: When are we going to start selling tickets?

In light of the recent release of more Columbine tapes, media in America have reached an all-time low.

Are the ratings so low that we have to start televising the shootings of innocent people? Thirteen people were violently murdered that day. Since then, NBC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN and ABC have all capitalized on it. The parents of the deceased students were interviewed, visuals of the students running in terror from their school were captured, and a film clip that depicted a student crawling out of a window as he was shot was shown almost nightly. It even went as far as funerals of the students being aired live for the public to watch. In the tears of these victims were nothing but dollar signs for networks.

After all the tears had been spent, more was still needed; the graphic tapes of the planning and carrying out of the shootings were a fantastic alternative.

The tapes show Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris planning the murders, and the school surveillance tapes show the gun blasts and explosions. In between the mayhem as explosions ring out and students die, viewers are given a commercial break to get some popcorn.

There is a drastic problem here.

The debate seems to be over whether the newscasters had the right to air the horrific material. The parents had been promised that the footage would not air. That promise was broken. Did they have the legal right? Yes. Did they have the moral right? No.

This problem goes much deeper. The newscasters are only a small part of the problem. The big problem lies with the people who watch them. The people you see walking beside you on the street, the people who sit next to you at work or school and the people you go out with on the weekends - society. Media would have no power without the ratings America so graciously supplies.

The people of America were just as excited to see those tapes as the reporters were to get the money in their pockets.Take a moment to think about that one. What kind of world are we living in when people are excited to see students in their schools executed?

The demoralization of America began many years ago, and really took off with the start of the last decade. People have stopped thinking about their actions and what the consequences may be. The "TV Generation" has turned into a TV society.

The more we are subjected to these events, the more desensitized to them we become. Parents' crying is not enough for long. People want to see the red stuff. So we turn to the wounded falling from windows. After a few weeks that also becomes trite, so the actual tapes of the murders must be aired. Then still, we want more. The only thing left is to show the planning of the slaughter.

What causes these violent occurrences is a question for the professionals to ponder.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not the music people listen to. It is not the movies they watch, and it is not the video games they play.

It is the constant, gratuitous news coverage of such travesties.

The media turned Klebold and Harris into a role model for kids who are different, a poster child for America's emotionally disturbed teenagers, a real-life Mickey and Mallory from the film "Natural Born Killers" and a definition for America's problems.

As we enter the new millennium, our world is draining into the gutter. Stop this. If you stop watching, the coverage will stop, and the pain of those affected by the events finally can begin to heal.

Dustin Weaver is a senior at North Hagerstown High School.

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