16 April 2013


As were many Americans last night, I was watching televised reports from Boston.  I was struck by how American television journalism has slumped.  The story—as is often the case in situations such as this—was what we do not know.  Kipling’s “six men,” as a team, were noticeably absent, but that did not seem to stop CNN (the network I watched with a friend).  I suspect all the others were covering the story with similar superficiality.

Oh, “What … and When and Where…” were there, reporting over and over and over.  Two bombs exploded as was evidenced by the same footage repeated every thirty seconds or so.  The race clock never changed, nor did the location.  The bloody pavement, shown in graphic closeness, titillated and repulsed.  Over and over and over.  The runner who was blown off his feet hit the pavement.  Over and over and over.  The journalistic “thrill” of the next big story, with blow-dried and well-coiffed reporters breathlessly repeating what we already knew, was evident.

But Mr. K’s other three “honest serving men,” those whose spirit is the real essence of journalism, were mugged on the way to the story and replaced with the Rumor family triplets: Sloth, Speculation, and Fabrication. 

I suppose that is understandable.  It takes time for Why and How and Who to do their work.  But instead of journalistic honesty (“We just don’t know Why this cowardly attack occurred—and may never know.”  How a coordinated attack like this was planned and executed will only be revealed after the pains-taking work of investigators is completed over the next several days and weeks.  This isn’t CSI, where lab results show up in minutes and the crime is solved in an hour.   Let’s let them do their jobs and we’ll report back when we know something.”  “We don’t know Who did this.  And before we increase fear and distrust, we’ll wait for facts about investigative leads.”), we were put on the lookout for a “black man in a black, hooded sweatshirt.”  Whew.  We should have him in custody before the 11 o’clock news.  There cannot be many men in Boston matching that description!  

We were treated to speculation that the 26 miles of the marathon and the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting were somehow related (despite the fact that there were 27 victims in Newtown and the race is called a marathon because of the geography of ancient Greece).  And even after the Boston police chief stated that no one was in custody, report after report spoke of the middle-eastern man in the hospital who was being interrogated as a “person of interest.” 
Mr. K must have set a new rpm record in his final resting place.

Oh, Walter and Chet and David and especially Mr. Murrow.  How we miss you.

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.

Rudyard Kipling, Just So Stories

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