Sensationalism and the Media

Topics: Rapture, Caveat emptor Pages: 2 (750 words) Published: May 27, 2013
Waiting on the Apocalypse: Sensationalism and the media by Marcia Merill Ah, the media. We love it; we hate it. We curse it, but we can’t stop following it. Any conversation about media causes controversy. Although most would agree that the media exists to serve the people, we still need to draw the line somewhere between fact and reality. But where to draw that line? Didn’t we hurdle over it long ago? I have to believe that all bets were off this past May 21st. If this date doesn’t sound familiar to you, it was the well-touted Rapture, or Judgment Day. That was according to Harold Camping, a very wealthy, very old man, who claimed to have interpreted the Bible down to an exact date. He bought advertising in a big way and succeeded in gaining attention and notoriety. So we heard about the Rapture and we read about it. We tweeted and we posted. Some people had parties in anticipation. Then the date came… and went. And we were all still here. Plenty of people found this amusing and almost quaint. But what about the people who committed suicide in anticipation? Or quit their jobs? Or abandoned their families? Clearly they believed Camping’s prophecies, but is it fair to say that he – or anyone else – is at fault? Were these people manipulated by a crazy man or by a true believer? Were they manipulated by the media? I think the biggest fault lies within us, both individually and collectively. We live in a media age where speed is everything. If we look back fifty years or more, this scenario would have played out very differently. In 1961, the news couldn’t have traveled as quickly or as extensively. Stories could die before they had serious reach. Now with the press of a Send button, a story can travel around the world at the speed of light. That’s what I think happened. These believers were bombarded with “news” from many sources that purported to be information about a real, imminent event. Maybe the media should have done more, but how do you vet a...
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