News and Tribune

April 26, 2013

NASH: The reality of news

Local columnist

It has been about a year since I complained in this column about the lack of reality in “reality” television. It just stands to reason when you add a television camera to the mix that it will change the outcome of the situation. I find most of the shows repugnant and an insult to the intelligence of most human beings. I do not understand why most of these shows have such a following and why they have remained on the air so long and have spawned so many clones.

 I will admit that Wednesday night when I came home from work my wife was watching the season finale of “Duck Dynasty.” This show follows the Robertson clan who made their family fortune with the company Duck Commander, a popular brand of duck call. I sat down and watched the show and I must  confess that I was somewhat entertained. Even though I enjoyed this show, it doesn’t mean that I believe it has anything to do with actual reality.

Last week reality television was redefined as the events surrounding the Boston Marathon bombings unfolded. The world watched live as the two improvised explosive devices were detonated near the finish line of one of the world’s most popular races.  We saw in real time as tragedy struck on American soil one more time.

We stared at our television screens as they replayed runners crossing the finish line, falling as they were hit by shrapnel. We cheered as stories of acts of heroism were told, like the runners who ran straight to the hospital to donate blood after completing the 26.2 mile race. Then we cried when we heard that one of the victims was 8-year-old Martin Richard.

The problem with watching news unfold as it happens is sometimes it becomes part of the story.  This happens when some of the facts that are reported are not as accurate as they should be.  There was several instances where in an effort to get the story first, getting the story correct seemed far less important. There were initial reports that the FBI was looking for a dark skinned man or a possible Saudi national who was believed to be a “person of interest.” 

CNN reported on Wednesday that an arrest had been made, citing law enforcement sources. They also announced the suspect was due in court at any time when in fact the suspects had not yet been identified by name. Within an hour of the initial report statements from the FBI and other law enforcement agencies contradicted the news reports that had been repeated by several different news outlets.

The New York Post published pictures on its front page of two people that they claimed authorities were looking for. It turned out that the two pictured were not suspects and had nothing to do with the bombings at all.    

Why was there so much information out there that was just plain wrong? Why did so many news organizations continue to make inaccurate statements without double checking their facts?  In this age of instant media is it more important to get the story first or get the story right?

As the authorities closed in on the actual suspects the news media continued to report from the front lines. They recorded the shoot out as one of the brothers was killed and the other escaped capture. They actually filmed as SWAT teams went door to door looking for the at-large suspect. It seems like the live coverage could have hindered the search had the fleeing subject had access to CNN to see where they were looking for him.

In the end the man who perpetrated this act was apprehended and hopefully we will learn what led these brothers to carry out this terrorist attack. It is not the time for speculation or supposition.  We must allow the legal system to work as it was intended if we are ever to figure out why so that we can possibly keep it from happening ever again.

It appears that the events in Boston last week were the sole act of two brothers and they were not part of a larger movement. A terrorist is someone who uses violence to intimidate others and the world needs to understand that the citizens of the United States will not be intimidated. We will learn from this event and become stronger because of it.

Last weekend was Thunder Over Louisville. The fireworks and air show annually draws one of the largest crowds for any event in the country.  

This weekend is the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon and Mini-marathon here in Kentuckiana. I have several friends, family and co-workers who are involved in this year’s  event and I hope  everyone involved has a safe race.  


Matthew Nash can be reached at