As viewers flocked to their TV sets yesterday to watch the horror in Boston, it soon became clear, as it often does in the live coverage of these kinds of tragic events, that real information is hard to come by.
Writes Joanne Ostrow, the TV critic for the Denver Post, "We know the drill: The moment of violent disruption, the sense of shock oddly mediated by the screen, replayed endlessly — now on every platform. The repeated images become mere images, first shocking, then numbing."
She adds later, "For hours, broadcasters rehashed sketchy information. CBS’s Scott Pelley was the most restrained anchor-authority figure. Early on, NBC let Brian Williams chat unchecked (he’s wonderfully funny in late-night situations, a terrific writer on his “Rock Center,” and a solid everyday anchor. But in the midst of this breaking news, he seemed too glib about Boston, the marathon and everything else. He made up for that in a primetime hour). ABC’s George Stephanopoulos’ early debriefing of terrorism experts was more informative, even when they had nothing conclusive to say. CNN’s oddly monotone and repetitive Wolf Blitzer was a caricature of the excitable cable news anchor. Fox’s Sean Hannity managed to work the gun debate into the Boston bombing discussion."
Ostrow also notes, "We were told that cell service was disrupted so as not to set off additional bombs. That report was then retracted. We heard the JFK Library had a third bomb. That report later knocked down. A suspect was held at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Authorities later said not so. More unexploded bombs? Maybe, maybe not. Information moves faster than knowledge and still the finish-line explosion footage rolls.
"We remind ourselves that some people haven’t been watching since mid-afternoon, that it’s new to them, that TV in breaking news situations is like all-news radio, not meant to be consumed hour after hour but only in small doses. As first-time audience members fill the room, the fright is fresh to them. But it’s difficult to experience anew, it’s so much a part of memory now. (The older man who fell after the blast was doing okay, Twitter updated.) Isn’t it time to take a break from TV? family members ask."
We urge you to click on the link above to read Ostrow’s full commentary. Another commentator, Variety’s insightful TV critic Brian Lowry, wrote a similar piece that you can read if you click here.