The media feeding frenzy after the San Bernardino shooting on December 2 is far from the first time the news media have embarrassed themselves for the sake of ratings, but it’s hard to think of a demonstration of the toxic news cycle as elegant and compact as watching reporters shove their way into the shooters’ apartment for “evidence.”
Indeed, it’s hard to watch any of the scenes from cable news on Friday of people rifling through the shooters’ drawers, poring over their bookshelves, and getting footage of their baby’s crib without disgust. It’s hard to imagine the reporters themselves not feeling shame about what they’re doing but clearly being “forced” to do it because everyone else is doing it and they’re constrained by the remorseless logic of having to Go Where the Story Is.
So far, so 2015. We’re all used to discussions of the perverse incentives presented to the news media, the way the business of attracting eyeballs has become increasingly cutthroat and when journalists make really bad decisions like flooding into a private home like vermin to carrion to get exclusive footage of a “terrorist’s prayer mat” it’s as much our fault, as consumers, as it is theirs.