Wisconsin is not Colorado
Saturday we were witness to another horrible shooting in the USA. A gunman walked into a Wisconsin Sikh Temple and shot seven people dead. This is clearly news. However, in the eyes of the media it seems to be less news than the Colorado shooting of a few weeks ago. So where is the dividing line? At what point to we decided to give a story 24/7 coverage? Is it the number of dead? Is it the ethnicity of the dead? Is it the method of killing? Does it vary depending on whether or not the shooter was killed in the battle thus ending the need for investigation, trial and sentencing?
I, unfortunately, believe it is simply a ratings-driven algorithm. We cover based on what our audience wants to see, not what they need to see. I am reminded of the 2008 tragedy in Mumbai. I was traveling at the time and thus had the opportunity of seeing the television coverage in five different countries on three continents. Was there a difference in coverage? You’d better believe there was. Even in the US, the coverage was very different in Florida, where few Indian Americans live, and in the Midwest where far more Americans of Indian origin reside.
My hope is that some day we will have some media channels – print, broadcast, online or otherwise – that will deliver information that is useful, regardless of its disconnect or its harshness. We need to feel for others even if they are continents apart. We also need to strengthen these distant ties and the only way we can do so is through understanding and empathy.
Clearly, 48 hours after the Aurora massacre, all the US networks had sent their top correspondents to the site. Now, 48 hours after Oak Creek, we’re back to talking about jobs, the Olympics and the drought.