Bridge to Nowhere
Here we go again. Yesterday, a bridge collapsed in Minneapolis. At least four people were killed, scores were injured, and a number are missing. It was a horrible accident and we all feel sympathy for the victims. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families. But why are the cable television news networks devoting every moment of airtime to this story, at the expense of everything else?
This reaction by the cable news networks is reminiscent of other stories, including Baby Jessica (who fell into a well twenty years ago to become the first major story of this type on cable tv), O.J. Simpson, Chandra Levy, the Runaway Bride, Anna Nicole Smith, Paris Hilton, Natalee Holloway (quick, did you even remember her name?), Lacy Peterson, Michael Vicks' dogfighting, and many more. Of course, families who may have loved ones involved in the Minneapolis bridge collapse have a direct interest in knowing what is happening minute by minute. But for the rest of us, once the Department of Homeland Security reasonably established that the bridge collapse was an accident rather than a terrorist attack (and honestly, who thought that a bridge in one of our less populated cities would be the first U.S. terrorist target after 9/11?), the Minneapolis bridge collapse became a more local story.
I am not trying to say that the bridge collapse story is equivalent to the drug habits of celebrities, only that the reaction by the cable networks is similar. Unfortunately, the bridge collapse story has several elements in common with these previous stories: (1) they are human interest stories (2) which cause an immediate visceral reaction, and (3) which make for dramatic television pictures. In this case, those television pictures include emergency activities, such as loading injured people into ambulances and looking for submerged cars. Everyone should ask himself or herself, why would I want to watch such a thing, at the expense of everything else that is going on?
Important news stories affecting all of us have been crowded off the cable networks to make way for the Minneapolis bridge collapse. How many people know from watching cable tv news that six Congressmen have introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives to require the House Judiciary Committee to consider the impeachment of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales? How many people know that this impeachment resolution is part of a Constitutional crisis that threatens to shake the very foundations of the Republic, as President Bush has ordered Executive Branch officials blatantly to ignore subpoenas from Congress, stating that the White House is immune from Congressional oversight? How much cable tv news coverage has there been about the people being raped and killed every day in Darfur, or the tragedies being suffered every day by the people of Iraq? Wouldn't we all be just as compassionate if we suggested that the cable networks break away from the bridge collapse for just a few minutes to let us know what else is going on in our world?