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100 articles – ‘Can media get beyond reactive response to tragedy?’

Can the media become more proactive in preventing tragedies rather than just reporting on them? That's a question raised by Jon Garfunkel in a piece selected by Jarrod Strauch to be the 50th in our series of the '100 articles' that every journalist should read about journalism.

Can media get beyond reactive response to tragedy?‘ by Jon Garfunkel

Published in MediaShift, 20 April, 2007

In the wake of the shootings at the American university Virginia Tech in April 2007, the media was faced with a ready-made and enticing narrative: the use of new media for disturbing ends. The shooter had created video manifestos using his computer and cell phone and sent them to a major television company, in some ways a subversion of the traditional view of the “citizen journalist” as a force for good, and the media latched onto the idea of a “mass murder made … for YouTube”.

Jon Garfunkel didn’t like this.

His argument is one that supports that most hated of concepts, “proactivity”. The media needs to get beyond narratives that react to tragedies and move to narratives that focus on how to prevent new ones; instead of talking about the potential dangers of the new media, we need to be talking about the ways in which it can be used to respond to dangerous situations. His suggestions need work, especially when considering the potential to abuse the system, but the principle he espouses is sound – put mobile phones to better use than just calling media companies and letting them deal with it.

Jarrod Strauch is a journalist studying at La Trobe University. You can read more of his work on his Blanc Garçon blog.

Want to contribute to our list of the 100 articles every journalist should read about journalism? Full details here.

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