As many of you readers know, I was teaching at Virginia Tech on April 16 last year. The devastation we all felt losing people dear to us was deeply exacerbated by an invasion of a press corps whose satellite vehicles alone filled a football stadium parking lot. To say that these folks were insensitive would be an understatement. I never had any respect for the kind of journalism, especially TV journalism, that chases ambulances. But even my cynicism did not prepare me for what I saw those days.
So, in light of the Northern Illinois University shootings, I will be taking a news break today. I encourage you to consider doing the same. The NIU shootings will, no doubt, be the top headline on most news networks and websites and every click or minute spent watching gives more encouragement to these (mostly) commercial enterprises to exploit others’ pain for profit. My thoughts will be with the NIU community for today and for the days to come. But I’m not going to kid myself that viewing news reports on CNN or MTV is going to help these folks heal. But I’ll stop, because I’ve written about “pornography of the real” before.
If you must read about the shootings, I encourage you to visit Northern Illinois University‘s website, or to read the Dekalb Daily-Chronicle. In my experience last year the news sources that were most valuable were the Virginia Tech website and our local newspaper, the Roanoke Times, whose coverage was sensitive, even-handed, and comprehensive. Their coverage only (re)confirmed for me that when it comes to telling stories, place — where you come from, where you live, the people you call neighbors — matters.