Of course the media is going to cover a riot, and rightly so!

April 29, 2015

cnn baltimore riotsWow. Where did this notion come from, that when there’s a riot in the streets, and fires are burning down a city, the media shouldn’t cover it? Rather, they should train their cameras on the thousands of peaceful protesters and not rioters threatening lives and property?

The fact of the matter is, it’s the media’s job to report on threats and risks. It’s their duty to cover the dangerous and the destructive. And this time, they did their job magnificently, particularly CNN, which is taking a lot of heat for simply doing the difficult work we rarely see done any more.

In many ways, the news today is more sterilized than ever in my lifetime. During the Vietnam War, it was on-the-ground correspondents, such as Dan Rather and Peter Arnett, who brought the ugliness of the war into our living rooms and set the stage for change. We don’t get that sense of war any more, and we’re more accepting of war because of it.

The same is true for civil unrest. Expecting CNN to turn away from covering the riots is naive and dangerous. That’s like asking the media not to report on BP’s Gulf Oil Spill, and rather focus on their solar energy initiatives. Or even worse, it approximates the Chinese or Russian need to sanitize their news. The mere fact that Baltimore and its people reacted so quickly and positively against the violence is due to the raw imagery the media captured, and the stories they told.

If anyone doubts that, consider CNN’s Miguel Marquez’ reporting from the site of the CVS fire. Marquez put himself in harm’s way to get the story, interviewing rioters on camera, and speaking directly with the community. Marquez had been in Baltimore all week; he had obviously built relationships and leveraged them throughout his broadcast. It was great, difficult, and important reporting. He should be commended.

Even more ironically, claims that the media wasn’t reporting on factors underpinning the unrest are flat-out wrong. The media has been interviewing any and all who have an opinion or authority over the issue. But to try to deny their coverage the violence itself, well, that’s just spin control. The American public is big enough to handle the truth, smart enough to realize its implications, and compassionate enough to react appropriately to it. We don’t need it filtered and sterilized or the narrative overlay that does more harm than good, when a dose of reality is what’s called for.

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