Monday, April 03, 2006

The Black Dahlia: Part Infinity

Leaving the Constitution/Carlisle Smith's late this afternoon I pass by "newspaper guy", his sales made more brisk by a relatively large special sales display over a small wire rack. "Astorga Nabbed" the large print says atop a black/white copy of the now-famous photo. The photo we've seen in all ABQ media for the past ten days. The same photo used in all the many 10 O'Clock News teasers, above-the-fold newspaper updates, and wherever finest news is sold. In many cases, sold in a disgusting manner.

I realize I'm not breaking any new ground when I say that news organizations take advantage of public fear and outrage in the same way the Lottery takes advantage of people's dreams and inability to understand probability math. But when the signature news-as-sales hyperhype kicks in, like it has in the McGrane shooting, it's hard to stomach the sheer audacity of a media in full slithering feeding frenzy.

Yeah, I get the other argument. It's the public's right to know. Yes, I understand the other position. Maybe the media does go overboard, but it's only responding to what people want. And true, I understand that this same debate of journalistic ethics happens with every Astorga, Schiavo, Katrina, Peterson, etc. It's nothing new, and the ABQ/NM media is no more guilty than the ABQ/NM citizenry, or the media and citizenry of countless other hyperhype stories in the past and to come.

Still, it was hard not to walk by that sign display at the "newspaper guy's" rack outside Smith's today and not think: "I wonder what a few more Astorgas could do for newspaper sales in this town?" "I wonder if there's a news producer at a local station in town secretly wishing the crime could have taken place during May sweeps?"

So, Hurricane Astorga has made landfall. It was a slow moving system, but now it's hit. We're winding down coverage now to some damage reports, interviews with a few displaced, a face-to-face with a insurance adjuster or weather historian. And then it's time to wait for the next storm.

Back to you Carla.

1 comment:

Derek Bill said...

Newspapers enjoy an fascinating and little-realized exception from minimum wage, child labor, and OSHA laws, and of course they're able to run all the help wanted ads they want, for free. It's an 19th-century way to do business, all the more so when the editorial slant is pro-business, anti-consumer, and regressive. I'll only read the Journal with a borrowed do otherwise would just make me feel dirty in the morning.