Column: I read the news today, oh boy

By Eric Naing

On the day of the London bombings, Fox News anchor Brit Hume took to the air and said, “I mean, my first thought when I heard-just on a personal basis-that there had been this attack, and I saw the futures this morning (which were really in the tank) I thought, ‘Hmmm, time to buy.'” This ghoulish comment is thoroughly disgraceful, but sadly, just one of the many embarrassing aspects of the news media’s coverage of the event.

Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, those in the news media did a bit of self-reflecting and came to the (surprisingly accurate) conclusion that they had dropped the ball in terms of coverage. Prior to Sept. 11, the major stories in the news had been the Gary Condit and Chandra Levey affair and the “summer of the shark.” Thus the news media promised to return to serious journalism lest they fail us again.

Flash forward to July 7 and we have CNN’s Miles O’Brien saying “The focus on sharks, the missing people, all of the things that seemed to occupy our attention in that summer were-seem to be- repeating themselves. And that was ominous to some people who look at these things and make it their business. I don’t think the summer’s going to be the same after this.”

Similarly, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough angrily asked of his fellow colleagues: “Have we taken our eyes off terrorism again and focused instead on things that aren’t as important?” Oddly enough, a quick look at the transcript of Mr. Scarborough’s show on July 6 will show you that he dedicated his own show to covering the missing girl in Aruba and Hurricane Dennis and did not even mention terrorism.

This passes the line of total incompetence. How many times are we going let the news media get away with this? They said they had learned their lesson, then failed to do that and gave us the “I swear this won’t happen again” line. Fortunately for them, accountability seems to be an increasingly archaic idea these days.

    Sign up for our newsletter!

    Brit Hume’s admission that his first thought following the London bombings was about his stocks was surprisingly telling. The news media obviously care more about ratings and entertainment than about serious news. They feed us sensationalist stories of shark attacks, missing girls and hurricanes just to boost their own ratings. And when it comes to things like war coverage or terrorism, they only bother to do any reporting when there is cool footage of an explosion to accompany the ramblings of their talking heads.

    All the apologizing and soul-searching by network anchors can not make up for the fact that as I write this column there is a bright red bar on top of the front page of www.cnn.com, exclaiming that DNA testing has identified the body of a missing child. CNN’s main story, though, is Hurricane Dennis, with plenty of pictures, links and stories tracking the storm’s progression. In fact, on the entire front page there are only two small links to stories about the London bombings and one small link to a story on the recent bombing in Iraq.

    The media dropped the ball on covering the build-up to Sept. 11, the Iraq War, the Islamist bombings in Bali, Casablanca, Madrid and now in London. Sure, MSNBC, CNN or FOX may promise that they will do better next time, but we all know they really do not care. They are just waiting for the next chance to shove more sensationalism-no matter how trivial-down our throat.

    Fortunately for the news media, we continually play right into their game. Once we get bored of bombing coverage, we move on to the next flashy story. The executives at CNN probably are breathing a sigh of relief right as things have returned to normal and they have gone back to doing that they do best-tying hapless correspondents to trees so they can provide us with pointless hurricane coverage.

    Eric Naing is a senior in LAS. His column appears Mondays. He can be reached at [email protected]