As I was marking papers the other day, this text came in from Loop News, imploring me to WATCH a murder take place. Ironically, I was marking exam papers for a Media Ethics and Legal Issues class. In this class, we explored these topics, of course. Unfortunately, I don’t think local editors do any such thinking about these topics.
News is entertainment. Murdered sons, brothers, fathers, sisters, mothers are reduced to a text, an urge to entertain oneself.
Let’s think this through.
Imagine you are the family of the person who was murdered and you receive this text. You know that probably hundreds of thousands of other Jamaicas are also receiving the text. They click on the link and get to watch your family member’s life extinguished. How painful that must be. Your family member’s death as entertainment, a brief moment of distraction for a person, who then goes about their day. Maybe they spent a moment or two horrified, maybe they showed it to co-workers. But you are left with your grief, compounded by the subtraction of dignity for your family member.
Let’s also think through the editor’s decision to show this piece of footage. What purpose does it serve? What does it add to the public interest? How does it further democracy? Perhaps these questions are simply too weighty in an age when editors are struggling to drive page views, retain what few advertisers they have, and meet quarterly results. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt- maybe they are trying to help the police to find the murderer. The full storydoes this, but let’s be real- Jamaica’s “informa fi dead” culture makes this extremely unlikely. The video is also not clear and is not that helpful in identifying the alleged assailant.