For the last few days, news web pages, blogs, and everything in between, has been plastered with pictures of Seung-Hui Cho, the college student who murdered 32 of his classmates on Monday.
The media coverage of this tragedy is hardly a surprise. As human beings, we can’t help ourselves. Our curiosity must be abated. I’ve sat in front of the tv for hours watching news coverage of such events over the course of my life – the assination attempt on Ronald Reagan, the Challenger disaster, the Oklahoma City bombing, the events as they unfolded on 9-11, the water as it rose in Houston during Tropical Storm Allison, desperate people waiting on the tops of their homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and many more. I couldn’t tear myself away from the tv as I watched these riveting events unfold.
On September 11, and during Tropical Storm Allison, Jene’ often told me to turn off the tv (during 9-11, most channels carried the coverage and there wasn’t much else to watch) or to turn the channel. I would get so wrapped up in what was going on on tv that I began to feel stressed out over it.
Media coverage gives us the “next best thing” to being there. We are in the victim’s families’ faces, right behind the microphone. We are on campus, at the foot of the towers, in Mission Control… and we’re there over and over and over again.
Monday, I checked a news website while I was waiting for my lunch to heat up and the headlines brought tears to my eyes. At the time, it was 20 students believed dead on the campus of Virginia Tech. Later, it was revealed that 32 bright, vibrant people lost their lives.
What we were shown over the next two days was the face of Seung-Hui Cho, the murder, who unfortunately left behind film footage – more proof – of his insanity. We were subjected to this tape over and over again, hearing his hatred, his diatribe. Meanwhile, the 32 victims and those who survived were sidebars.
Even if Cho had not made the now infamous tape, we still would have had to look at his face splashed across the front pages of newspapers the world over. By Wednesday morning, I couldn’t turn on the news or check major newspapers’ sites because I couldn’t look at the face of evil any longer. When I stared into that man’s eyes, it made me shiver. I can’t imagine what having to see that picture did to the families and friends of the 32 lost.
I had to stop reading and watching the news because all they wanted to show was the gunman and his tape. By Wednesday noon, however, the media finally heard the outraged cries of thousands of people from all over the world who were outraged that Cho’s tape was given the light of day and they finally backed off and took his picture off their front pages and stopped broadcasting his hateful dialogue.
I understand that a journalist feels the need to share every detail of such a story with the public, but why not post a transcript of the tape rather than show it ad nauseum? His hateful diatribe was broadcast for all to hear, broadcast where others who are on the same troubled frequency as Cho would gain inspiration. No one disputed Cho’s claim of martyrdom (by the way, martyr’s DIE for the cause, they don’t KILL for the cause), but played his tape over and over until we are well aware of what was on his mind.
But what about those 32 lights he snuffed out? What about the man who survived hatred during the holocaust only to be gunned down later? The young man who stood between a girl and a gunman? Their hopes? Their dreams? The thing that disturbs me most about the media coverage is that the evil was the main event – at least that’s what their coverage showed. Finally, days later, we are seeing glimpses of what the world lost on Monday. I think the stories of the 32 are more important than the 1.
So many dreams were shattered Monday. I don’t know how people who have been put through something like that regroup and move on. Their lives have been forever altered.
Ten years from now, people will gather to remember the 32 who lost their lives. Unfortunately, unless the media changes the way they handle their reporting, we will hear a brief blip about remembering what was lost, and we’ll get an eyeful and an earful of the face of evil once again, prominently displayed.