Thursday, April 19, 2007

News Junkie

by Kristine Coblitz

When I was in college studying journalism, one of my professors proudly announced she was a news junkie. She would boast about the numerous televisions she had in her home, all of which were tuned to news channels 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I had visions of her home being like CNN headquarters.

I guess her influence rubbed off on me because I have followed in her mental footsteps, but of course to a lesser degree. This can be both a blessing and a curse. There are times when I have to step away and escape into a blissful state of denial where bad things don't happen. My overactive mind can only take so much, after all.

This week, for example, I'm not enthusiastic about being a news junkie. As many other people, I'm scratching my head at the devastation and horrific shooting that rocked Virginia Tech earlier this week. My husband and I spent most of Monday evening watching Fox News with sadness and in awe, discussing images and details of what they are calling the worst school massacre in our nation's history. (Yes, my news junkie tendencies have rubbed off on my husband, too.)

Ever since then, I've been trying to catch clips on TV about the latest developments, and when on the computer, I keep watch on the news headlines. I've also been paying close attention to how the media is covering this story and the tactics of the various reporters.

This is scary stuff, folks. When I think back to my college days in downtown Pittsburgh, the worst thing I had to worry about was if a delay at the bus stop would make me late for class. It was a small college and I felt relatively safe there, even in the heart of the city. Heck, I spent most of my life during those four years on that campus.

In light of this situation, however, when I look back, there were some definite security issues that should have raised some red flags. Maybe I was too young to notice. Maybe I didn't care because I was at an age when I thought I was invincible. Maybe it's because the world was a much different place then.

Now that I'm a crime writer (yet still a journalist at heart), my interest and obsession with the news has two different motivations. In one way, I'm always looking for material to pipe into my fiction. In another way, I have an almost obsessive need to know what's going on in the world. I want to know all the details. Who, what, when, where, get the idea. Although I must admit the “why” part is what intrigues me the most and is usually the most difficult question to answer.

The frustrating part is that, unlike fiction, events like this shooting don’t usually have a happy ending or even a satisfying one like you get in a novel. (Long live the book industry!) In real life, we are often left with even more troubling questions long after the case is solved.

As more details come in about this monumental tragedy in our history, you can bet I'll be paying attention. Will you?


Annette said...

How can you not pay attention to it? One of my yoga students missed class Monday because her son is a student there. How horrific. Also, one of my cousins graduated from Virginia Tech. With such a large campus and student body, the tragedy touches many of us closer than we'd like.

I just read that during that two hour lull, the shooter went to the post office to mail videos and pictures to NBC of himself making threats.

This story just gets more tragic by the minute.

Joyce said...

It is a tragic situation. I know the campus is in the middle of nowhere, but they should have been better prepared in the event something like this happened. Josh said Pitt has a rapid response team that was trained after 9/11 in case of a terrorist attack. If there's any inkling that someone has a gun, they're on them in a matter of minutes. They also have an instant alert system to notify students and staff if there's a problem. None of this "oh we didn't want to upset anyone" crap.

I also have a problem with some of the media coverage. For one thing (according to our PD gun expert) they keep saying one of the guns was a 9mm Glock, when the pictures that are supposed to be the gun in question show a Sig. He had a receipt for a Glock, but that's apparently not the gun he used.

From working at the PD, I've seen first hand that certain members of the media make up stories if they're not salacious enough for them. No comment doesn't work because they'll make something up. That's why our detectives go on camera now, and there are only a couple of reporters they will talk to.

It's a shame because most people get their news from TV and probably believe everything they hear is true.

Kristine said...

Annette: That's so sad. I think we'll be hearing about even more local connections as this goes on. Those pictures from that video of the shooter are enought to give you nightmares, for sure.

Joyce: I agree with you about the media. It's one of the reasons why I decided not to go into reporting and instead stuck to technical writing about engineering equipment. It's interesting to get your perspective on this based on your police experience.

Tory said...

I'm afraid I'm the opposite of a news junkie. What do you call that: an ostrich? I used to pay attention to news not at all. Now I pay attention to it very little.

Still, I was in the car listening to NPR (the one news source I can stomach) when I heard about the Virginia Tech tragedy. I do become interested in the "Why?" as I wonder what was going on inside that poor student's head.

Kristine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kristine said...

Tory: I think you're better off that way. Sometimes it's best to turn off the switch and live your life.

Gina said...

There was a shooting this morning on the street near downtown Pittsburgh Point Park College -- apparently, no place is safe.

Kristine said...

Gina: This is beyond bizarre and reading your post gave me chills. I went to Point Park College.