Media Professionally Cover Malaysian Flight Tragedy

Monday, 21 Jul 2014 10:52 AM

By Jon Friedman

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Hell froze over. The sun rose in the west and set in the east. The Chicago Cubs won the World Series. The New York City subway system got me from here to there without a snafu.

The U.S. media actually covered the sad story of a downed Malaysian airplane in a sober, calm, professional way.

The latter headline did happen last week.

When yet another airliner tragically went down in seemingly mysterious conditions in the same general area, I bowed my head twice: first for the misfortune of the victims and their families and then for the coming onslaught of more hysterical news coverage, like we saw only a few months ago during a similar tragedy.

But to my amazement, the journalists restrained themselves this time.

They covered the story in a fact-based manner, pulling the reins on the sort of rampant speculation and wild-eyed analysis that marred the reportage a few months back.

It was impressive to see.

The coverage also got me to thinking how the media — particularly the television networks, and cable operators — can do good work when they put their minds to it.

Maybe, just maybe, we'll see this turn into an actual trend as we head into the meat of the 2016 presidential election race.

Can journalists control themselves and put the clamps on their worst instincts for sensationalism?

If so, which party or candidate would likely benefit the most profoundly?

It would mark a seismic change in the way U.S. television networks cover a presidential campaign. Imagine. Instead of doggedly digging out would-be dirt or overplaying minor news stories about personalities, the networks instead went old school and played it straight, reporting to us what the candidates did and said and what they believe in?

Taking this fantasy to its logical conclusion, what if the candidates themselves stuck to the new script and concentrated on presenting themselves as statesman and stateswomen?

Rather than attack one another relentlessly, what if they stuck to the issues, too?

I know, I know. Yada yada. What's that about the Cubs winning the World Series?


Jon Friedman writes the Media Matrix blog for Indiewire.com. He is also the author of "Forget About Today: Bob Dylan's Genius for (Re)Invention, Shunning the Naysayers, and Creating a Personal Revolution." Read more reports from Jon Friedman —
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