Friday, April 08, 2011

The bully pulpit

the usual suspects

The Times Union's "Parent to Parent" blog this week posted a video that showed a portion of a fight between two girls on the Shenendehowa High School campus. The fight allegedly happened last year but, as the author explained, the video had “just surfaced” on YouTube.

The posting describes the contents of the clip in a paragraph, highlighting the potentially controversial fact that an administrator knocked one girl, presumably the aggressor, to the ground. It continues on to commend the “superhero” for doing what “he had to do to stop a bad situation.”

The post also pokes a little fun at the girl who is seen throwing punches, noting the irony that her t-shirt bears a peace sign. (On its official Facebook page posting of the piece, the "TU" commented that the newsroom was “giggling” over that, too.)

Predicably, a number of comments on the blog, as well as where it appeared on the TU's Facebook page, took the bait and started swimming to the murky depths.

Some brought up the girl’s weight. One called her a “low life.” Many blamed “the parents.” They wondered how long it would be until the administrator was sued. One called for a return of a “good spanking.” Another wanted the teacher to “lower a shoulder.”

Standard stuff I suppose, and stuff that included opposing and thoughtful view points. But does one really balance the other? What does viewing a video clip add to the discussion?

We (journalists included) routinely swipe video from Youtube or photographs from Facebook with the conviction that what we are exposing is for the greater good. Critics might say that the business of news and analysis is leading us all down this desolate road ... if we don't we threaten our own survival. But as we troll more and more for the stories we promote, I can't help but think we run the real risk of adding to the greater harm instead of the greater good.

Let’s not think about copyright or ethics for the moment. Let’s not think about the supposed victim in the video, and how she might feel about seeing the clip dredged up by a professional arbiter of information. She's just a performer in the theater of ideas. That this fight, and countless others, will last in perpetuity isn't really our concern. After all, it is owed to a perfect storm of immaturity, the ease of technology, and the desire to keep click counts hopping on slow news days.

I just wonder: Does promoting videos like these really add to our understanding of, or reporting on, the problems of youth? Or are we just facilitating bullies and becoming ones ourselves?


Sandra @ The Journey Mom said...

My gut says that that it's plain old sensationalism, catering to the lowest denominator to include a girl fight video. But, if this is what galvanizes the community to do something about the factors that allowed this to happen in the first place, then it might be worth it to push those buttons.

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