Absence of any real news creates challenges for editors seeking to keep the fear level high
The news media, especially in the US, is like a junky needing their next fix. The drug is war and terrorism, and in the absence of any new developments are working hard to keep war and terrorism leading the news.
Take what has led the NYT and other papers these past couple of days: Belgium on lockdown. One might think that the residents of Brussels are trapped in their homes, cowering in fear. But photo and photo seems to show residents out and about, juxtapositioned with troops carrying weapons. Is it scary? Maybe. But there is no real news here to report, only the absence of news.
The old saying is that if it bleeds it leads. But in the absence of anything new to report we are getting reports that… there is nothing new to report. The idea of war and terrorism is enough for most editors.
In the meantime, the presidential election goes on and one fears that to grab headlines some of the candidates, led by Donald Trump, are feeling a little ignored. In the past they might simply wait until things settled down, but that doesn’t work for many. So Trump felt the need to tweet the most absurd statistics about the murder rates, stats supposed that came from Crime Statistics Bureau – San Francisco.
Really? That no such organization would exist seems fairly obvious to even the most gullible among us. But grabbing a headline can be hard these days. The Donald will have to try harder. Maybe some statistics on the number of Syrian refugees caught committing terrorist acts, compiled by The Bureau for Statistical Analysis of Terrorist – Cincinnati?
That the tweet was not deleted after it was well known that it was fake seems to tell us that even fake news is better than no news at all, even when running for President.
(I think this is different than Ben Carson saying he thinks Thomas Jefferson wrote the Constitution, that bit is silliness will likely be walked back by the candidate or his campaign at some point.)
Fear sells newspapers, just as it drives up ratings. I cannot think of any other reason why a story about no news coming out of Belgium could be leading the news for so long. What will follow, of course, is the reaction. Somebody will do something stupid (besides Trump, I mean), something dangerous, then that will grab the headlines. But will the media look at itself in the mirror when it asks why this would have happened?
Meanwhile, here is another view, related a bit to this post, though not concerning the contribution the media have to our reaction to terrorism. (Well worth a read.)
Feature Photo: Scared by Melissa Segal used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License
Photo Above: comfort in shadows by JustCallMe_♥Bethy♥ used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License