Jan Freeman writes The Word column for Ideas.
Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, editor, and multimedia producer.
Christopher Shea writes the Critical Faculties column for Ideas.
Send the Brainiac bloggers a comment on a post.
See the latest Ideas stories that appeared in The Boston Globe.
Visit the Ideas section
Week of: November 11
Week of: November 4
Week of: October 28
Week of: October 21
Week of: October 14
Week of: October 7
Mind the gap
What he learned in the newsroom
Mr. Boffo lays an eggcorn
Curse of the mummy's tummy
More in Word Watch
Wednesday, January 3, 2007
Shooting fish in a barrel, or, TV-news ethics
This morning, NBC's Today Show did the usual two-step that TV news producers use when they want to get exploitative content onto the air but don't want to be called exploitative. Over the caption, "Too Much? Too Far?" (or maybe it was "Too Far? Too Much?" -- the faux concern was the important thing), NBC somberly probed the "issue" of why people were seeking out video on the Web of Saddam Hussein's hanging.
Of course, using sexed-up graphics, Today showed as much of the clip as possible, given reigning decency standards -- always stressing the abiding mystery of why anyone would ever want to see it. They showed it again and again -- all but the money shot, which they tantalized you with. Throughout the segment, sociologists and psychologists, including Northeastern's Jack Levin, usefully explained that human beings sometimes are titillated by shocking sights. One expert, to his partial credit, said that the only surprise is why anyone would be surprised that numerous people sought out the clip. (Yet he didn't feel strongly enough about the banality of NBC's exercise to give up his TV slot.) The on-air reporter gravely explained how mainstream news organizations could never, ever air such a barbaric clip.
As a bonus, Today showed more of the Paris Hilton sex tape than I'd ever seen (to back up the claim that some weird Americans -- but not Today viewers! -- are interested in watching perverted things.)
Today, of course, is correct: the Internet is breeding a kind of sick voyeurism previously unheard of in human history.