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How The Media Ruin Everything

A reader sends a short, powerful post by Ryan Schuessler, a freelance journalist who is leaving Ferguson because he’s disgusted by the behavior of the media (and by locals who are now performing for the media). Excerpt:

One anecdote that stands out: as the TV cameras were doing their live shots in front of the one burnt-out building in the three-block stretch of “Ground Zero,” around the corner was a community food/goods drive. I heard one resident say: “Where are the cameras? I’m going to go see if I can find some people to film this.”

Last night a frustrated resident confronted me when he saw my camera: “Yall are down here photographing US, but who gets paid?!” 

There are now hundreds of journalists from all over the world coming to Ferguson to film what has become a spectacle. I get the sense that many feel this is their career-maker. In the early days of all this, I was warmly greeted and approached by Ferguson residents. They were glad that journalists were there. The past two days, they do not even look at me and blatantly ignore me. I recognize that I am now just another journalist to them, and their frustration with us is clear. In the beginning there was a recognizable need for media presence, but this is the other extreme. They need time to work through this as a community, without the cameras.

We should all be ashamed, and I cannot do it anymore. I am thankful for my gracious editors who understand that.

It’s like the Heisenberg Principle applied to media and society: the observation of a thing changes the thing itself. Read the whole thing; the Anderson Cooper anecdote will make you throw up in your throat.

Here’s the thing: it cannot be denied that media attention can be a positive thing. I’ve seen that up close and personal, and been a part of it myself. But it also cannot be denied that at a certain point, it becomes a harmful thing. What’s the tipping point? How can we tell? Is it even possible to pull back, or do these stories take on a momentum of their own, like a tsunami wave rushing relentlessly toward shore from the deep?

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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