A community project hosted at Northeastern University

Bombing Coverage on Sports Radio: A Better Option From WEEI

Description

Take a moment to consider what you were doing when you first heard about the marathon bombings, and the news source you turned to for coverage as the day unfolded. Thinking about how powerful the emotional impact of the day felt, further consider how your choice to get information from one place over another may have altered your unique experience from that of someone else. Did you turn to a trusted news anchor on TV? Or maybe you relied more on social networks for sporadic updates and personal accounts. Whichever form of communication you chose, the medium undoubtedly shaped your reaction to the crisis, therefore making the media an important part of your remembrance of the attack.

For many people, the choice likely came down to proximity. People near a television chose from any number of channels, all of which offered a similar menu of stern reporters, disconcerting accounts, cheap speculation, and disturbing images. The source of many of these photos was a shareable network or other form of the blogosphere, and those who were more connected through their computers or smartphones likely saw these images first. Boston's vast radio coverage was interrupted to report the breaking news, providing another important option. This exhibit's purpose is to preserve some examples of talk radio and present them as a preferred form of media when experiencing trauma.

One week after the attack, the hosts of WEEI's Salk and Holley show considered whether Boston can return to normalcy. They reflect on the things they've seen and the impact on the Boston community, as well as the direction the coverage will go moving forwards. Unlike most other news sources, such as solemn TV news anchors, they describe the emotional toll they felt over that past week in a way that their audience can closely relate to and empathize with.

On April 15th, 2013, I was working as an intern for the Salk & Holley show at WEEI, one of Boston's sports radio stations. From the on-air personalities to the laid back atmosphere, the station has a more comfortable, upbeat feel than mainstream news outlets. However, when news broke that afternoon and the significance of the day became clear, the hosts and producers were forced to assume a wider responsibility. Informing the Boston sports community took a backseat to breaking news coverage and eventually, in the days that followed, a healing process. Unlike television news teams that compete for coverage of the biggest stories and the most professional appearance, and unlike the anonymity of online communications, the people at WEEI were able to express themselves on a much deeper personal level.

At this time, the significance of the media choice may still be hard to interpret. Looking back on the marathon and the week that followed, if you were to separate the story from the spectacle, so that the approach and techniques of each news outlet are all that remain, the impact of each style becomes a more measurable quantity. How the method of the media influenced the trauma and recovery of an audience is perhaps one of the most important lessons to take away from this disaster and apply to future crises. Radio is significant for two main reasons. First, the violent, graphic images that can be so difficult to forget are avoided. Not only are they the primary focus of media such as TV, but the disturbing visuals are reinforced with constant repetition. Secondly, the talk radio experience is based on personal communication on a very human level. Not only are the hosts familiar and approachable, by necessity they deal with issues on a more detailed interpersonal level. By sharing their individual thoughts and emotions, they adopt a more positive tone, and possibly a healthier long-term recovery.

This content was created by a student in Victoria Papa's Advanced Writing for the Social Sciences course at Northeastern University in Fall 2013. The students in the course each created two exhibits, the first directed toward a public audience and the second directed toward researchers in their various academic fields (economics, international affairs, political science, etc.). The students publicly presented their exhibits on December 5th at Forum Restaurant, which was heavily damaged by the second bomb during the Boston Marathon.

Creator

Joseph Nolan

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