Monday, May 08, 2006

A self-limiting factor

Todd and Brant are still buried alive, 3000 feet below Tasmania. The rescuers were expecting to reach them over the weekend, so there was a bit of expectation and an obnoxious mob of reporters, sound guys, camera men, and all the other loathsome symbiotes of the media scavenging organism. And as it turned out, they ended up having a casualty after all. One of the reporters had a heart attack moments after asking an inflammatory question.

On the radio this morning, they were doing a tribute to the guy, and the show was eerily illuminating. The spoke to numerous colleagues, associates, and interviewees whom this guy met over his 35 year career, and not a single one of them had anything nice to say about him. The closest anyone came was to say that they felt bad for his wife, because she was a lovely person. Here was the deceased reporter’s own network trying to do a retrospective on his career, and the unintended subtext was that the guy was an obnoxious provocateur, and was a good reporter as a result.

No wonder people don’t respect journalists. To be sure, geology has its share of first class dickheads. Some of them are even good scientists. But none of them are good scientists because they are obnoxious. It simply isn’t relevant to our profession. But these guys on the radio seemed to believe that a reporter’s highest calling was to get under the skin of those politicians brave enough to host press conferences.

On the bright side, perhaps this is a sign that the ability of the media to promote stress and anxiety is self-limiting. After all, if the tension that they generate gets to the point where their own reporters start keeling over from coronaries, then it will be difficult for them to continue to ramp up the panic factor. I hope. Unfortunately, I have a suspicion that this may just be wishful thinking.

No comments: