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Friday, April 5, 2013

Mike Check - The Business of Revictimization

To coincide with the anniversary of the death of late rock star Kurt Cobain, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer posted to their website an article promising fresh, unreleased photos of Cobain's "suicide scene". In the article, they described how their newshounds scored the scoop, with their sports photographer perching at a nearby house to zoom in on the greenhouse where Cobain took his life, taking photos of the area, his body, and distraught relatives arriving at the home. Apparently, these pictures remained undeveloped until the P-I decided to check them out and then add them to their website.

The Post-Intelligencer mentions that they are not publishing these to shock people, but warns of the graphic nature of their slideshow, which does include numerous images of attendants removing the body of the late rocker.

But what the hell is the point and why do it now?

Simply put, publicity. They picked a specific date when folks would be googling the guy to post the photoset. They did it for hits, and they should be ashamed of themselves. There is no good reason to publish photographs of the corpse of a long-dead man, let alone his horrified widow and young daughter. It was done for absolutely selfish reasons; to promote their newspaper and its founder.

Kurt Cobain was someone's kid. He was someone's husband and a girl's father. Frances Cobain is a young woman now, and she's fully aware of how her pop died. She doesn't need to be reminded of it in such a grotesque fashion. To capitalize on someone's death so many years after their death is truly sad, and we as media consumers are all part of this.

Nowadays, everything is about hits. It's the website advertising, it's the Facebook posts, it's the number of retweets your big "scoop" can score. It started as the kid yelling "Extra! Extra! Read all about it!" on the street corner and it's become bigger, faster, and far more sinister. The news media no longer cares about being sensitive to widows and kids, moms and dads, friends and easily disturbed members of the public. The big buck is why hundreds of cameramen race to the scenes of car crashes and to the morgues that exist within school classrooms. It's not enough anymore to know that Ryan Dunn has died in a car crash- we have to see the blood and guts and twisted steel; the internet is full of slow-motion video of Eric Harris assassinating classmates and then taking his own life because some of us are so disconnected from the reality that we think that we need to be really, really shocked.

We're very ill as a society. We see these images and the tragedies that cause them as entertainment and as ploys to market whatever cause we're representing. The little girl taken at 6 is no longer an innocent taken before her time, she's a statement for gun control. But she was a human being and so was Kurt Cobain. Victims of tragedy leave behind an extra group of victims who become increasingly more hurt every time the memory of their loved one is capitalized on by a thirsty paparazzo or grandstanding talk show host.

There must become a time where we need to step back and think before we print that picture or click that link. People's lives and deaths are worth far more than the few cents of advertising that TMZ or the Post-Intelligencer get when you hop on to their websites. Media will only produce what they think will sell and you're unconsciously purchasing whenever you tune in to Nancy Grace or sign up for exclusive e-mail updates.

The power is at the tip of your fingers. How you use that is up to you. Choose wisely.

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