A day of grief for Germany – yesterday’s news about the horrible event in Winnenden near Stuttgart where a 17 year old shot 15 people dead amongst them 11 in his former school. Colleagues who knew that nearly all of my family are teachers, told me of it after they had seen the news flashing across the TV during their break. Thankfully none of my family or friends work in that part of the country. That is really the only positive news in this tragedy which we all are struggling to understand. Already since the disaster at a school in Erfurt (2002) I’m worried for my family’s safety and again this brought back to mind how fragile a human life can be.
Amongst all the devastating questions that the witnesses, families of victims and the family of the offender will try to resolve over the next years, there are also a lot of questions about how the situation has been handled by the media after the event. The German magazine FOCUS decided to use Twitter to update their readers and created an account with @Amoklauf (Run Amok). Twitter members united against it and the magazine took it offline. Not before having told the world that Focus reporters have been given a budget for two toothbrushes to stay over in Winnenden. Equally, ethically more than questionable are the Google adds of DIE ZEIT about the same event and there are probably lots of others that I missed. But actually I already had more than enough of it.
I’m perfectly aware of the pressures on journalists to produce something quickly to keep us up-to-date. But we’re talking about big news channels, not individual weirdos on the internet. Information should be cross-checked – or is it, at the end, all about us as consumers? Will this Friday morning brainstorm meeting in one of those media departments only say “we had the greatest number of people checking our site during this (tragic) event….?”
You might say that I shouldn’t throw any stones as I write a blog and equally that I was glad about the quick access to information. You are right, but I don’t think news should be biased and journalists who use Twitter to voice their own trivial mental state – especially in view of the tragic event – are the last thing we need. I’m aware that the quick access to the Internet is a double-edged sword and all of us contributing to it are responsible for the content. DER STERN wrote that the Internet is to blame, but I don’t think that we can honestly blame the technical development in news distribution (starting with the invention of the book press) for all evil in the world, we must however, use it to the best of our conscience.