Journalism in times of moral panic

30 01 2009

What kind of journalism do we want in times of moral crises? For the majority of Flemish news media, no theory is too far-fetched, no source too irrelevant, no ethical concern too important. Yesterday, VTM news broadcast the voicemail message of the 20 year old nursery assailant. I cannot think of any journalistic context in which that would be appropriate.

In the days after the attack, several news media linked the attacker’s complexion to that of the Batman character The Joker, adding that the most recent actor to play the role, Heath Ledger, died exactly one year before the nursery killings took place and that the actor’s name is “an exact anagram” of the attacker’s surname.

Yes, the public has the right to know what took place on that fatal Friday morning in Dendermonde, but we do not need cameras covering the ceremony in honor of the three victims. That’s voyeurism, not journalism. I take my hat off to Piet Buyse, the history teacher/Dendermonde mayor who is taking every measure necessary to ban all newsmedia from these ceremonies.

De Morgen)

Piet Buyse, Dendermonde Mayor (photo credit: De Morgen)

Mr Dinkins, would you please be my mayor?
You’ll be doing us a really big favor

A Tribe Called Quest – Can I kick it (Jive, 1990)

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