Do Americans Sensationalize Tragedy?

March 18, 2011 - 1:27 pm 25 Comments

In the wake of the catastrophic events that struck Japan last week, every news channel and talk show continues to give updates on the damaged country. Experts are brought onto morning shows to discuss radiation levels. Footage is aired of heartbroken Japanese among the devastated ruins. Stocks plummet. And this morning, Olympic medalist Tara Lipinski performs a skating routine dedicated to Japan and the Nagano Olympics that changed her life in 1998.

Screen shot 2011-03-18 at 4.24.12 PM

Everyone is watching to see what will happen next.

As I continued to absorb this awful reality and what it means for Japan as a nation, I couldn’t help but wonder to myself: do we as Americans like to sensationalize tragedy? As our behavior demonstrates, Americans like to be in the know. Ranging from the Elizabeth Smart case to the earthquake in Haiti, we are the first ones on the scene and inform to the best of our abilities. The public depends on the media for both knowledge and the comfort of knowing there are people out there striving for justice in an unfair world.

However, everyone has a business to run. News correspondents need credibility. Advertising space needs to be sold. Newspapers need to be read. These are all facts and nothing sells more than a good tragedy. Sometimes I question the motives behind running certain stories again and again and again though. Before the crisis in Japan, for example, Charlie Sheen was all anyone could talk about. This is hardly shattering news, yet the media’s constant coverage on the actor’s downfall had eyes all over the nation glued to the TV. News correspondents followed up on rumors. Experts gave their opinions on the Hollywood star’s crude behavior. Now Charlie Sheen nearly has 3 million followers on Twitter. As a culture, Americans are very emotional and the media knows to play to our emotions by telling us who should be rewarded with our sympathy. The media portrays Charlie Sheen as a man undeserving of our pity and yet sucks us into the drama just the same.

It is amazing what a difference one week can make. Last week I had lost faith in the media because, in my view, they were milking the tragedy of one man for the sake of TV ratings. This week, however, there was no need for sensationalism as Japan’s series of disasters were of such a magnitude, human drama had reached its peak. All the media had to do was uphold press coverage – viewers were guaranteed. I noticed though that the tone of the broadcasts changed significantly. It is one thing to foster drama about an actor; it’s another thing entirely to experience the horrifying loss of homes, lives, cities – everything – in a matter of hours. This is not the kind of tragedy people enjoy sensationalizing. This is the kind of unthinkable tragedy that should never happen, but all too cruelly does. It’s times like these that we are put in our place, reminded of what’s really important. Just look on Twitter and Facebook. These social network sites used to chitchat with friends have turned into invaluable sources of help, comfort, and knowledge for Japan.

Even though we may get caught up in the drama sometimes, I’m really proud of Americans’ unwavering ability to come together in a crisis and lend our support to victims worldwide.

25 Responses to “Do Americans Sensationalize Tragedy?”

  1. hidss Says:

    Good job. I mean, er, awesome thoughts – I need some time to think about this!

  2. Dom mediowy Says:

    Your post is perfect. That’s what I’m looking for.

  3. Carin Kleppe Says:

    Valuable information and excellent website you got here! I would like to thank you for sharing your thoughts and time into the stuff you post!! Thumbs up

  4. Celeste Scripter Says:

    I like the helpful info you provide in your articles. I will bookmark your blog and check again here frequently. I’m quite sure I will learn lots of new stuff right here! Best of luck for the next!

  5. Janeen Bania Says:

    Addiction is the least of Sheen’s problems now….It simply goes along with his underlying mental illness, brain damage and psychosis which occured AFTER the drug fried his brain probably beyond repair…

  6. Harvey Lahue Says:

    This gentleman is just an actor, what the hell else he knows how to do aside from stay in the harmful publicity world of the press and tabloids….I wonder what his papa ought to think of him now…….

  7. Carmela Pistilli Says:

    Hello! I could have sworn I’ve been to this website before but after checking through some of the post I realized it’s new to me. Anyhow, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be bookmarking and checking back frequently!

  8. Don Stransky Says:

    Howdy I am so happy I found your site, I really found you by accident, while I was looking on Yahoo for something else, Anyways I am here now and would just like to say thank you for a marvelous post and a all round entertaining blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to go through it all at the minute but I have book-marked it and also added in your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a lot more, Please do keep up the superb work.

  9. Kieth Baller Says:

    It’s hard to find knowledgeable people on this topic, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

  10. Solicitors in Essex Says:

    Its like you learn my thoughts! You seem to know so much about this, like you wrote the guide in it or something. I feel that you can do with some percent to drive the message home a little bit, however instead of that, that is excellent blog. A great read. I will definitely be back.

  11. current silver prices Says:

    How can I uncover out much more details on this matter?

  12. folly beach rentals oceanfront Says:

    I found your blog – – on StumbleUpon today and thought I’d take a look. I bookmarked it and will come back to check it out some more later.

  13. Zack Linamen Says:

    Thanks for the good article. It in fact was a amusement account it. Look advanced to far added agreeable from you! By the way, how can we communicate? Please send a email! Thanks a lot, Zack Linamen

  14. cheap karen millen dress Says:

    Good job. I’m definitely going to bookmark you!

  15. Cheap Backlinks Says:

    Hi there , I am making a site like youtube and some of your original articles would really fit in well. Am I allowed to post think article for my readers?

  16. pup file 3.60 Says:

    I like this website because so much utile stuff on here : D.

  17. karen millen black dress Says:

    The article was still worth reading. go for it!

  18. Ozella Markos Says:

    There are some interesting points in time in this article but I don’t know if I see all of them middle to heart. There may be some validity however I will take maintain opinion until I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we would like more! Added to FeedBurner as nicely

  19. karen millen Says:

    great information you write it very clean. I am very lucky to get this tips from you.

  20. Chelsie Galeoto Says:

    Excellent post. I was checking continuously this blog and I’m impressed! Extremely helpful info specifically the last part :) I care for such info a lot. I was seeking this certain information for a long time. Thank you and good luck.

  21. Raylene Finefrock Says:

    Cool blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere? A theme like yours with a few simple adjustements would really make my blog stand out. Please let me know where you got your design. Thank you

  22. Website Design Bristol Says:

    Hey , Thank you for you’re blogs post, how do you blog about a great number of subjects but it not be dull? ? ?

  23. Xavier Swatloski Says:

    Your post is really wonderful..thanks for posting…your post is very informative

  24. Cecila Zeh Says:

    Good blog, where did you come up with the knowledge in this piece of content? I’m glad I found it though, ill be checking back soon to see what other articles you have.

  25. TV Addict Says:

    Really enjoyed this article, how can I make is so that I receive an update sent in an email every time you make a fresh article?

Leave a Reply

© 2011 Spada Media · Theme based on Lost Island