John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

Thoughts tangentially related to Boston

The third Monday of each month is the day on which my church prepares, serves, and shares a dinner at Luke House, a local community meal program. While I was in the kitchen chopping potatoes with some of my fellow church members, our conversation naturally turned to the events in Boston. Some people hadn't heard about it yet; those of us who had shared what we knew. I mentioned that I'd heard on the way to Luke House that there had been a third explosion, at the JFK Library, but someone else said she'd heard that incident was unrelated to the explosions near the Boston Marathon finish line. Thus when the topic came up again when I sat down to eat, I was able to pass that along to someone who'd heard the same report I had.

Which had the effect of reminding of something from my college days. The night the Gulf War started, I got a call from my friend Kerry, who was editor of weekly student newspaper, The Cornellian. She had the idea that we should put together a special edition about the Gulf War and have it on the tables in the dining hall the next morning, and wanted to know if I could help. I could, so she and I and I'm sure several others gathered in the newspaper office and pounded out a two-page "newspaper" -- really just a single sheet of copy paper, printed front and back -- with the news we'd been able to glean from CNN and the network news broadcasts.

By the next morning, we found that a lot of the news we'd reported in our special edition turned out to be wrong. The networks were reporting anything that came across their desk, some of which items turned out to have happened differently from how it was initially reported or not to have happened at all, such as was the case with the explosion at the JFK Library, and of the third explosive device that had supposedly been found near the two that exploded and defused, which we had all discussed as fact last night but which Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said this morning didn't exist. It's the nature of breaking news coverage, now as it was then and ever thus shall be.

Which is one of the reasons I don't watch breaking news coverage. That, and that I think it's boring to hear the same stuff ad nauseam. I only needed to hear about the JFK Library explosion once, but I'll bet if I'd been watching CNN or constantly refreshing my Twitter feed I would've heard it a hundred times. I don't deny it's newsworthy, but I also don't think any particularly good purpose is served by continuous news coverage of a news event. Report it, and then report other things that happened, like the earthquake in Iran that killed 40 people, or the US helicopter that crashed near the Korean DMZ, or Venezuela's electoral commission certifying the winner of the special election to replace Hugo Chavez. All of which, my brother tells me, were being reported this morning on the overseas 24-hour news channels but not on the US ones. Are explosions in Boston a bigger story in the US than overseas? Of course, but nevertheless it's not the only story.

My lack of interest in saturating myself in breaking news may also be why I feel no particular outrage over companies that fail to suspend their scheduled promotional emails, tweets, and Facebook posts in the immediate aftermath of tragic events such as the one in Boston. What do I care if a Facebook post about Buffalo Wild Wings's Jalapeno Pepper Bites shows up in my Facebook feed between posts about Boston? But people do get upset; author Guy Kawasaki was criticized for not shutting off his scheduled tweets yesterday afternoon, and a marketing professional I know was so upset about receiving promotional tweets and emails yesterday afternoon that he made three separate Facebook posts about it in the span of an hour. (The first of which, ironically, came less than two hours after he had posted a link promoting a blog post he'd written some years back about tweeting breaking news responsibly.) But he's a runner himself, and he went to school in Boston, so I can see why he might feel a need to follow the story more closely.
Tags: current events, halcyon days of yore, social media: facebook, social media: twitter

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