The past seven days have been the most news-packed in recent memory: Venezuelan elections, the Boston bombings (and subsequent manhunt), the Texas fertilizer plant explosion, China and Iran’s earthquakes, New Zealand passing marriage equality legislation and, in a more recent development, the United States doubling their aid to Syrian allies — over 60,000 have died since the beginning of the fight against Assad.
It’s difficult to sift through these events and try to make much sense out of them individually. When you have natural disasters, terrorist attacks, acts of social progression, political regression and genocide happening in the same 100-hour time frame, the picture tends to get a bit hazy. We all have what we perceive to be accurate pictures of how the world works. We believe we understand the human condition and what makes us tick, then weeks like these come along and totally distort what we believe to be fundamental truths. No greater argument could be made for the theory that we are heavily shaped by environmental circumstances, that we do not decide our own fates or formulate emotions independently.
From a media standpoint, one thing truly stuck out to me concerning the coverage of the Boston manhunt. In Auckland, I was browsing social media site Reddit.com and came across a news post detailing the shooting of an MIT officer. This was how the story originally broke — after days of remorse in Boston, yet another tragedy had occurred and possibly a school shooting. From the initial stages of this report, I followed via a live feed from the Boston Police Department’s radio scanner. As the story gained momentum, it was clear this was somehow involved with the bombings after grenades and explosives were being thrown out of stolen police vehicles. For 24 hours, users of Reddit kept THE most up-t0-date, accurate assessment of the events I saw. I used Reddit and Twitter updates as my primary source for all content, as CNN, Boston Globe, ABC News and others lagged behind. Of course, when you have thousands of individuals posting simultaneously you’re bound to have crucial factual errors — such as the report that missing Brown student Sunil Tripathi was one of the suspects — but at some point, the “hivemind” of users will correct the mistake. What you’re gaining here is INSTANT satisfaction for content, but you’re losing out on accuracy and factuality. Where is the line? As a journalism student, this is a common dilemma we discuss. How do we justify our jobs when anyone can report on breaking news from anywhere in the world? Simply because we have access to have the right sources? That’s not necessarily true, and if you believe in organizational objectivity then you’re underneath a rock, or on Rupert Murdoch’s payroll. The point this jumbled mess is trying to convey is that the industry changes with every major news story now. Boston is an exceptional case study in social media reporting. I believe that global media really took a hit this week. Citizens are proving that they prefer up-to-the-second content over the proper format and attribution of official news outlets — and we are supposed to protect and serve our citizens as journalists, no?
Briefly on Venezuela: shit is and will continue to hit the fan. As a Chávez-supporter, I believe in 21st-century socialism for the cost of temporary violence and economic setbacks. Realistically, this is an ideology that in no way could have survived passed Chávez, and the deaths of the Castro brothers will confirm this as well. These policies take decades to achieve success, and without international cooperation they will fail. When you put the present ahead of the future, the poor ahead of the masses, and effectively fuck your economy for the future as Venezuela has done with its oil dependence, only a charismatic leader can manage the straits and mobilize support. Maduro is not that man. Uneducated and unfit to fill the shoes of a man who rivaled Bolivar in terms of continental unification, Maduro will run the country much further into the ground. The violence we know in Caracas today will amplify throughout the next six years, if Maduro makes it that long without facing a military coup. The country is divided — as proven by the 1.0% margin of victory Maduro earned over Capriles, and what many perceived to be a dictatorship under Hugo will soon truly understand the definition of that term.