Thursday, August 31, 2006

Wake up, American media

Good news! John Mark Karr will not be charged in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case, thus guaranteeing the world another odd decade of intense suspense over the real perpetrator of the crime. I will now go throw up.

Even more depressing than the rampant media attention given this completely unimportant and meaningless case is what the media are not covering. American media are all too good at playing up a story for a set period of time — days, maybe weeks — and then completely forgetting about the issue.

Cases in point: Darfur and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Sure, there are a few random stories bumbling around — but hardly an accurate coverage of two immense tragedies. For a few days after Katrina, hopes were raised that, finally, the U.S. media would begin to cover the huge income disparities, largely based on ethnicity, in America. Of course, these hopes largely evaporated at the end of September 2005.

Katrina was in our own backyard — but Darfur is the scene of a horrific genocide, largely condoned by the Sudanese government. It seemed for a month late this spring Darfur would finally be the real “never again” scenario — a feeling proven much too na├»ve. The peace deal that was so heralded in May is now completely ignored — and has merely given cover for the main rebel group to attack its rivals.

Taken together, the media’s coverage (or lack thereof) of actual news is exceptionally worrisome. I find it hard to believe Americans are truly so ignorant to believe JonBenet Ramsey’s 10-year-old case is more important than hundreds of thousands of dead and displaced. Even if we merely restricted ourselves to national news, the social message so damningly displayed by Katrina and its aftereffects are all but ignored. Day by day, it appears American media have forgotten what it takes to uphold the profession of journalism.

Andrew Swift
editorial writer, columnist

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