Voyeurism. The term comes from the French voyeur,
which means "one who looks". Add the hashtag and now your subject of
interest can trend on social media, index in search engines and unite you with
others wanting to gobble up the same guilty pleasure. Murder is the planned,
intentional act ending the life of another human being. Put them all together
and add a sprinkling of bitter, enraged sociopathic journalist:
and you have the gut wrenching tragedy of #WDBJ.
I am sickened. Astounded. Horrified. Not just about the bat
shit crazy ranting and senseless killings of reporter Bryce Williams aka Vester Lee Flanagan - but by the social media frenzy he knew would
explode when he started planning these murders a year ago.
I worked in television news for six years. During that time
I prided myself on getting the story out first, getting ahold of the best video
and getting the most heart wrenching interviews. I shot it, wrote it, voiced
it, posted it, tweeted it and shared it. Then, I submitted it for Emmy
nominations as some sort of blue ribbon of achievement validating my career as
When I first watched Flanagan's go-pro video – the first thing I
noticed was that he stood there and waited for the photographer to pan back to
Alison before he fired. He waited patiently, knowing that it was only a matter
of time before the photog got the cue in his IFB to pan back and go wide on the
shot. Because he knew the process and he wanted it live. He waited for Ward to zoom out to just the
angle he had envisioned. Then he adjusted the go-pro to record his murderous POV and slaughtered those
two innocent people.
He also knew what would happen next.
Flanagan fled the scene. He wasn’t worried about being
caught or identified because he was already planning on both of those things
happening. He was most concerned with reporting on the story. His morbid story.
He filmed it, edited it, wrote it, posted it, tweeted it and shared it. And just as he knew they
would, thousands of journalists gobbled it up. Just as he knew they would,
millions of people shared it. Just as he knew we would, we were captivated by
There has to be a line we don’t cross. Do you realize that
now forever, emblazoned for eternity in the search results of every search
engine, those two innocent lives will be relentlessly exploited and branded by
the actions of that evil sonofabitch. Parker and Ward’s mothers, grandfathers,
former teachers, mentors, friends will live with the live video images of their deaths running over and over in their minds. The sounds of Parker's terrified screams will echo in their nightmares.
Flanagan pulled the trigger,
but we did this.
Our society, the field of journalism as a whole, needs to
make a change. We must stop tolerating the exploitation of life for the simple
sake of a retweet or a like. Or ratings. Or Emmys. This whole thing has me
questioning the creed of news I had believed so strongly.Gruesome sells. Horrifying sells. Scandalous
But at what cost?
News is supposed to help people. Inform them so they can protect their families and make responsible decisions. Keep politicians honest and voters knowledgable. But as long as news is a profitable industry funded by clicks and views, management will be motivated to tell the stories that shock, horrify and unravel the private lives of people because we all can't quit staring.
My heart breaks for #WDBJ and for the loved ones of Alison and Adam.
of the most important qualities of a successful blogger is relevancy. This
writer is currently crafting an article 30 thousand feet up in the sky. You
wouldn’t believe the amount of enjoyment derived from typing an article with a
flight-related mildly unnerving headline. I’ve made sure to adjust the font to
bold size 24 so that everyone walking up the aisle can get a good look.
My purpose: a list of the top ten or so reasons why I really don't want to be on this plane.
1. Ebola Outbreak Mass
The outbreak in West Africa is what news media likes to call the "Everlasting Gobstopper." It has unlimited potential for creating
article after article of share-worthy content. Factor in the transport of two infected patients into the biggest
international airport in the nation and wham, bam: mass hysteria ma’am. “The Top 7 Ways Ebola Kills You,” “10 places to avoid if you don’t want to contract Ebola,” “8 Reasons to be concerned about the biggest Ebola outbreak in modern history.” The point being is that departing out of Hartsfield-Jackson, just
down the road from the CDC and their disease infested luxury jets is
unsettling. And if you suddenly need medical care, never fear: the nearest
hospital has become home to a half dozen reporters staking out Ebola-recovery
headquarters. If you need me, I’ll be the girl in seat 13F rocking the circa 2009 H1N1 facemask.
2. Giant parasite
monster reaper in the cargo hold
doesn’t love a good Sunday night mass infection drama? But some advice; binge
watching every episode to date of FX’s new series The Strain during the 48
hours preceding takeoff is a horrible idea. In the second episode a guy gets
his skull smashed in by the scariest manifestation of a tapeworm I’ve ever
seen. For those who aren’t familiar, the key plot points include an epic fail
on behalf of airport security resulting in a wooden coffin the size of a gosh
darned swing set in the cargo hold. Next, everybody on the plane dies. Then
they aren’t dead. Finally, their genitals fall off and they start sucking the
insides out of beloved family pets. Considering rail travel yet?
3. Planes “disappear”
like single men after they hear I have two children
in the day, 747’s were pretty much the one thing you could never lose. It’s not
like misplacing your car keys or losing yet another cell phone to a night of
dive bar debauchery. Planes have black boxes, GPS trackers, radar signals. They are also filled with hundreds of
people. You don’t “lose” a plane. But if the past three months of news headlines have taught us anything, its that not only can they vanish, but after
they do we all still file down the boarding ramp like we didn’t just witness
the magician lose the rabbit in the hat. Do you just move on with the show and
never address the obvious demise of the rabbit? It seems my lifelong practice
of avoiding driving, boating or flying through any of the world’s triangular
“danger zones” has been pointless. Apparently, the prestige is oblivious to geometry.
4.Pictures of crash victims’ carry-ons in my
is nothing like the memory of that photo you happened upon in your newsfeed of a charred teddy bear staring out at you from a
mangled airplane seat to comfort you during turbulence. The most horrific tragedy in recent memory spawned the creation of the most heart wrenching photo
slide shows you should never browse prior to flight. Although most of us have
become disturbingly numb to the gore and sickness blaring from our newsfeed, the threat of being blown out of the sky
is suddenly a possibility, no matter how remote. Has anyone made the point that just like Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, no one has yet to explain this mid-air tragedy either?
5. TSA’s “Expedited
me start off by saying if it wasn’t for the abbreviated security check I
encountered at the airport this evening, I would have totally missed my flight.
I’ve arrived drenched in sweat and out of breath at the gate before but today’s
margin for error was infinitesimal. As I counted bodies ahead of me in line and
tried to decipher just how long it would take the mother traveling alone to tie
the shoes of all three of her grimy children; I was blessed with a miracle.
Suddenly a uncharacteristically friendly TSA agent was telling everyone to
leave their shoes on. “No really. Laptops can stay in their bags. Liquids do
not need to be pulled out for inspection,” she told the throngs of travelers.
What luck! I hastened my way right on through and thanked the airport god for
my good fortune. Now however, I wonder why long lines and an anxious shift
manager can justify the proclamation of “Half-assed terrorist prevention day”
at the airport. Just saying.
Photo courtesy Tumblr.
6. No more hot
towels in first class
a fact. I’ve never flown first class in my life but I must admit, knowing those
warm wet rags were available if the in-flight terror got to be too much to
handle was comforting. The time honored comforts of those who didn’t choose to
be journalism majors and could afford first class instead of a flight with
three connections, are long gone.
7. I’m pretty sure “airplane bottles” are
the current state of things you would think the opposite would be happening. I
don’t profess to have the market research to back it up but I’m almost certain
Big Gulps of SKYY vodka would be a big hit. (Maybe even enough to fill the
gaping hole left by the departure of the hot towel.)
8. Flight attendants
don’t try anymore
what I’ve gathered watching movies like Catch Me If You Can, flight attendants
used to really give their all before reporting to work. Crisp white dress
shirts, flawless make-up and a cute navy scarf that said, “I want you to like
looking at me.” Maybe the crew on my flight pulled an all nighter at the
Holiday Inn in Milwaukee before completing this final leg of the trip. However
if the fabulously gay flight attendant who sold me two bottles of vodka
can take the time to curl his eyelashes, the rest of these women can at least
smear on some concealer and keep me from having to look at the evidence of their
on my fellow air travelers. Confront the fear of epidemic, sudden parasitic
esophageal growths and weaker in flight beverages with a bravery that would
make our forefathers in flight proud. And remember, I said "10 or so reasons" and I only came up with 8. Plus I have to stow my tray table. Because that's going to make ALL the difference. Not. Really.
Back in January, I swore that this was only a temporary hiding place. When, six days after Christmas, the Elf had still not yet returned to the North Pole, I stuffed him in this drawer thinking eventually he'd make his way to the garage.
He never made it.
That brings me to today. When my seven-year-old son stumbled upon his limp, tangled body in the drawer beneath the cable box. "He feels warm," he said.
"It's probably because it's June," I replied without thinking.
I tossed around the idea of suggesting the elf was hibernating. Then maybe that his spirit had left his body and floated back to the North Pole. Three years ago, I could have distracted him momentarily, stuffed it down my shirt and 15 minutes later that would've been the end of it. I couldn't lie fast enough.
Not with this child. The jig is up.
What I wasn't prepared for was the endless list questions that followed. What about the leprechauns? And the Easter bunny? (For the record, he admitted he never believed in the Easter bunny anyways. The thought of a 6 foot tall rabbit hiding eggs was just too far fetched for this realist.)
I assessed the situation, weighed my losses and settled on this:
"In actuality, none of them are real. Except Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. They are totally legitimate. And you better roll the elf over on his stomach cause his eyes are actually cameras spying on you from the North Pole."
You could say I ruined Christmas. I say I brought June some Yule Tide magic AND a fresh tool to bribe good behavior.
We'll circle back on this when he's nine.
If you only knew what happened yesterday. #growingup #parenting #nowheretohide
I put my very outgoing seven year old who incessantly wiggles in a hip hop class like three months ago. Radically enough being the overachieving mother that I am, I learn his choreography to help him practice the night before his show at the Ferst Center downtown....and we made a video.
Luckily for you, I'm feeling a little fancy & I'm going let you in on the newest gangsta hit:
So I've been working my craft and taking a few small stabs at fiction. I have my mind stuck on a theory that explains my inevitable fall from one WTF moment after another. Meet my good friend, Murphy.
27 has proved to indeed be a pivotal year for "you've got to be fucking kidding me moments." I don't mean to beg pity because there have been great joys too. But if you know anything about anything you know that 27 was also a pivotal year for some other edge riding, norm breaking creators. That is to say, the members of the 27 Club all tragically died after a coincidental rise to stardom. I'm alive and kicking and I plan to keep it that way. But like I said, I'm taking a stab at fiction.
I'm sure my use of profanity was noted just earlier in my post. Typically, I like to write in a PG format so that not to put my credibility or objectivity in question. I think a journalist/blogger needs to respect the sensitivities of a very diverse crowd. But, where can you talk when you must always allow the views of the stakeholders to filter you? Expression is nothing more than an exchange of ideas. Discussion and disagreement breed substance. Out of substance comes change and improvement.
IF you pick the wrong place for that sort of self expression, you're suddenly trending in more than a dozen different countries. You wake up to find your good name hanging shamefully in the headlines. If your sense of humor isn't on par with that of the stakeholders, suddenly you're looking at your name in a Huffington Post headline filtering its way up your newsfeed. The next day they'll tease your story with Facebook opinion polls and an interview with an expert specialized in talking in circles about nothing.
Take this opinion piece by Chez Pazienza. I really like this guy BTW.
"Predictably, it was easier just to knee-jerk and get rid of her -- despite what appears to be a record of pretty damn stellar service to her station and the community -- rather than ignore a late-night social media brain purge that almost nobody would've seen in the first place had she not been fired over the fucking thing."
Where exactly is the line between privately exchanging quips with fellow sarcastic semi-narcissists about real damn life - and inciting a swift rise to the sweet tasting tip top of the Totally Entertaining Bullshit corner of the internet. Another move by Murphy. Then you meet his bitch cousin, Daytime Television. Its was the oddest week of my life. Truly like, just stupid ridiculous. Came in with a bang then faded into the fairytale ending for any aspiring Viral Internet Darling, mugshot and all. But for me, the whole thing was completely humiliating. I have never felt more sorry for myself.
Here's my point. I'm still trying to figure out who I am as a writer. In the meantime, I have the right to step out of my journalism oxfords and write with some flavor. My hope is that I can put something together eventually that makes people stop and feel and think and even, act. A good story does wonders for the spirit and I have a good story to tell.
So, I'm playing it safe. I've made a space for these stories to develop and to work my hand at a more flavorful style of writing. READ me & share if it really does it for you.