Does the media give violent stories too much attention?

Criminal justice professors, Dr. Al Kopak (left) and Dr. Cyndy Caravelis-Hughes (right)

In wake of the recent bombings in the city of Boston, the Citizenship and Civility Steering Committee presented a discussion on the subject of “If it bleeds, it leads. Why do the media and its viewers love violence and murder?”

Criminal justice professors, Dr. Al Kopak and Dr. Cyndy Caravelis-Hughes spoke for an hour about the role the media plays in such news stories as serial killers and terrorist attacks like the Aurora and Sandy Hook School shooting, and the bombings in Boston.

Live television can be captivating, which is why media outlets receive a boost in ratings when horrific events occur, because the people want to know what is happening. But do they exploit these events too much?

“As much as we don’t want to see live footage it’s extremely difficult to look away,” said Dr. Kopak.

These types of events receive around the clock media attention. But what scares the public more, the event that happened itself, or the intensity in which the event is covered by the media?

“Ignorance can be blissful because it’s easier to dismiss the reality of an event if we haven’t seen it yet,” Dr. Kopak explained.

“I would say the media; hearing that a bombing in Boston killed three people doesn’t make it as real as seeing the footage of the event,” added Dr. Caravelis-Hughes.

The media, not just news, have immortalized the likes of Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer for the acts of murder they have committed, yet the names of their victims do not receive nearly as much publicity.

“Some people commit violent crimes, especially mass murder, to leave a demented legacy,” Dr. Kopak listed as a possible reason for why these crimes are sometimes committed.

When the story of the bombings in Boston first broke out, news outlets were airing graphic videos of the events that were unfolding. Some videos contained uncensored shots, of the injuries bystanders had sustained. But media outlets are not the only ones to blame. Social media networks provide an instant update of crime into the public eye with the quick pace that social media spread news stories.

“The line is crossed by users of social media. It was the facebook and twitter users that posted the pictures of the victims without consent or thought as to whether they want their injuries out there for public consumption,” stated Dr. Caravelis-Hughes, on the impact social media has on actual news.

Because of the popularity of social media, people are free to see virtually every angle of an event, should they choose to see it, regardless of how graphic the story or images are.