Monday, April 20, 2009

Tabloid Sports VS. Tabloid News

Living in New York City, there is always something interesting going on. There are 5 entirely different boroughs here, and you don’t necessarily have to be in Manhattan to be near the weirdness. Picking up any of the local papers, you have a great chance of seeing a story about the Boulevard of Death in Queens, or about ninja burglars in Staten Island. There are errant arrows piercing people in the Bronx, and cross-dressers impersonating Mets pitchers at night clubs in Manhattan. Brooklyn, of course, is not immune to this – click here and read all about our self mutilating sex offenders!

The problem with the aforementioned local papers here is that most of them are sensationalizing tabloids. Sure, there’s The New York Times, but there is one thing I find the Times isn’t tops for – sports reporting. While I never look at Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid rag for fear that even acknowledging its existence will rot my brain, the New York Daily News isn’t all that bad for a rag – the news may be a bit lacking sometimes, but their entertainment coverage (especially movie reviews) and their sports reporting is excellent. And so, I found myself at their site earlier looking to read about the Yankees (new) home opener earlier today. I tooled around a bit, reading some other articles when I came across this. And it made me a lot upset, and a little angry.

The story seems to be that a 9 year old boy, who received special education, was left alone by his mother. He got the idea in his head to try and jump off the roof with a makeshift parachute tied around his waist. He went up to the roof, which should have been locked and should have had an alarm, but found the door unlocked and unarmed. He jumped from the roof of the building and died shortly thereafter at the hospital. It is upsetting that the child’s mother left him unsupervised. It is unfortunate that the building’s roof was left open. It is terrible that a young life was extinguished because of what seems to be negligence on so many levels.

But aside from that, is the sensationalized portion of the story, and that angered me further. The reporters for the News spoke to the child’s best friend, who admitted to not knowing what his friend had been doing, or that his friend had died. Then he tells the reporters that he may have been imitating a wrestler from a wrestling video game. Now, this friend is an 11 year old who had already said he knew no facts. So, the reporters decide to run a story that mentions the facts (mother being absent, roof too easily accessible), but instead focuses on the wild theories of an 11 year old who was not at the scene and is purely speculating. The article mentions games as a tie in to the death of a 9 year old in the headline (what caught my eye), then proceeds to get the point of the event wrong and instead talks about the child’s love for a wrestling game (of which, the reporters get many “facts” wrong – the title of the game, the name of the wrestler – and his move – that might have been being emulated). The reporters even called the wrestling organization (WWE) for a quote.

I’ve been saying this for so long now; I don’t even know why I continue to do so. Video games do not ruin children – bad parenting does. If a parent leaves a special education student alone, that is bad parenting. If a child plays a video game and thinks it has anything to do with reality (or if the child thinks wrestling has anything to do with reality), then the parent is not teaching the child to separate fantasy from real life, and that is bad parenting. Blaming the multimedia (be it games, television, movies, etc) that the parent uses to raise their children by proxy is a cheap, lazy and pathetic excuse. These are the people social services should be taking children away from.

Did you see that I’ve been writing reporters throughout this? It took two people to write this article up, and neither of them thought it might be a good idea to talk about the facts. Neither thought the story about a negligent mother would fly. Neither thought to focus the story on the door to the building’s roof being left unlocked or its alarm being disabled – how about using this incident to create an expose on slacking landlords who don’t keep their buildings up to code, and the dangers they might present to children? Instead, it took two people to sensationalize the speculation of a non-witness 11 year old into an article about video games convincing children to act violently and unpredictably.

In my opinion, these “reporters” should be ashamed of themselves for using a child’s death as an excuse to concoct shocking, scandalous crap. And the Daily News should be ashamed for running this, when there were NO facts supporting it. From now on, I think the only tabloid I will read will be the best paper in the country – The Onion.

- Goodchild

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