Great expectations, not met

I won’t pretend that I haven’t been angered this week. Our societies have become so large that we cannot hope to capture what is going on around us from our own observations. So, we rely on reporting by others. Those who do this as a profession provide us with regular updates of facts and also give analysis. We can try to refute the facts and we can differ on the analysis. But, what balance do we get?

Reports come with bias, some heavy, some light. Some with which we agree, some with which we disgree, and in different degrees. Do they portray a world we can recognize? Do they give insight to experiences we have not shared? Do they fill us with despair or make us elated? Do they exaggerate or sensationalize? Do thry seem to have good motivation?

My anger was caused by a picture published by The Gleaner this week. It showed two women fighting; one holding a piece of lumber as a weapon; both women tugging at each other’s hair. No story went with the picture. The caption indicated that the women were vendors but that photographer did not know why the women were fighting. That’s when I got angry. I expected the paper to give me a story, not least to justify publishing that picture. However I felt on seeing the scene, I deserved to be told more. At least, try to find reasons and maybe offer lessons or advise. If not, it seems just gratuitous.

20131005-112727.jpgI got over my anger, which turned to frustration. I was heartened that the initial reactions when the picture was first posted on the Gleaner’s Facebook page were predominantly critical and disapproving, beginning the paper to do better than just head for the low point of the ‘gutter press’. Whatever, the editors thought, the picture then appeared opposite the leader page in the middle of the paper. Why could they not put up a picture of a woman kissing a baby and say, with equal ignorance, that they had no idea why the baby was being kissed.

I’m in a better position that many, in that I have no real problem engaging those who have power to do things to ask them what they are doing. Others may not feel so comfortable doing that. I’ve a belief that mass media have a responsibility to do more than just bombard us with things that may shock and have little else of worth. Or, I expect them to offer a reasoned argument that can justify placing that on show. If they can say to me openly that they do not know what it is they are presenting, I’d prefer for them to hold it till they do know.