There's no history in TV news. Everything happened today, unless, of course, it happened 25 years ago today and we, fortunately, have videotape of it happening, which we'll show you, and it'll look like it happened today. There's no context for anything. Everything takes place on its own, in some media aether, where it miraculously makes its to the newsroom where, equally miraculously, news directors and managing editors are equipped with the necessary equipment to convert it into "stories" intelligible by the rest of us.
The "story" over the past few days that embodies this the best, in my mind, concerns the two helicopters which crashed in Phoenix, AZ, on Friday, killing both pilots and the TV reporters who were in each 'copter. Most big cities have multiple local TV stations equipped with these helicopters, which they dispatch with alacrity whenever there's a major and disruptive traffic accident (i knew more on Friday afternoon about the deadly accident on I-40 near Raleigh, for instance, than did many of the people actually on the road), or a hostage situation, or a police chase.
It's a given that people on the outside of "the glass" want to, and are entitled to, see these images for their entertainment. In fact, it's likely that these images will eventually be repackaged for viewing in any of the many real life Cops and Robbers shows that are a staple of syndication. It's cheap content, and that's what drives much of the decision making process which puts those news 'copters in the air in the first place.
Which is why it's absurd to hear (and read in the paper) that the man the police were chasing at the time may be held responsible for the deaths of the 4 people in the helicopters when they crashed. What chain of logic has to be followed to reach this conclusion? It's one thing to say that a guy being chased by the police is responsible for death and injury if he runs a red light or causes an accident on the ground. But if a news director has his "news gathering" team up in the air obtaining images of a police chase, images whose primary purpose is the entertainment of the audience and concomitant ratings for the station (and perhaps a secondary purpose of providing evidence in the future, evidence which might be used in favor of either law enforcement or the defendant), then shouldn't responsibility begin with the TV stations themselves, and end with the pilots? It's not like the guy was firing heatseeking missiles in the air.
Another story that's being covered in a predictably disappointing way is the Michael Vick case.
While i'm glad to say that i have not yet seen Mike Nifong's name raised in connection with the case (and if anybody else has, please let me know with a cite. I'm talking about the principals and/or the MSM here, not the blogosphere), what i've seen the past few days has been remarkably consistent. Michael Vick's case is polarizing the country along racial lines! Who would have figured?
Interesting that despite Al Sharpton's (who is usually the media's go-to guy when it comes to telling us how African Americans think about an issue) appearances on behalf of PETA early on in the case, CNN has uncovered other African American media people to stoke the racial divide. This morning on "Reliable Sources" a Chicago based radio host whose name i didn't catch defended Vick along the usual lines (innocent until proven guilty, would this be happening to a white athlete?), and then made the astounding claim that dog-fighting has been going on since the beginning of time!
Where do these people come from? The Roman Empire is not the beginning of time. Does he think we should also bring back slavery and gladiatorial combat to the death, two other well-known practices of the Romans? Does he think no one else has ever been prosecuted for dog fighting?
Here's what we know about the Vick case (and we'll know more tomorrow after one of Vick's co-defendants cops his plea.) Nobody has yet denied the allegations that dog-fighting occurred on Vick's property, or that dogs were put to death in the brutal fashion described in the indictment. Vick's defense, at least so far as his public statements are concerned, is based on his claim that he wasn't involved in anything that was going on at the property which he owns in Virginia.
Real stand up guy, it seems to me.
"I have a dream," Martin Luther King said, "that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
That's how Michael Vick should be judged as well.