Casualty of Capitalism

Exiled into Wilmington, Delaware by virtue of corporate layoffs. (Note: Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this blog are Copyright 2005, Michael Collins, and cannot be used without permission.)

Location: Wilmington, Delaware, United States

Graduate of University of Maryland School of Law; University of Maryland, College Park (Economics/Political Science).

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Hype Watch

A couple days ago, a Loop skyscraper a block to the SW of mine caught fire. At least one floor and part of a second were consumed. Injuries totaled in the upper 30's, most due to smoke inhalation, and there were no deaths. Just about a year ago, another fire the building directly across from my office caught fire, consuming one floor and the lives of six unfortunate souls, trapped in the stairwell due to locked doors. Thus the recipe for HYPE was set for Monday night's breathless news coverage.

In my original post on hype, I recalled an incident in Silver Spring, MD, where two trains collided and the local news reporting blazed straight into the realm of irresponsibility. Rumor was reported without verification and the death toll ballooned and shrunk repeatedly over the course of the night. Watching the coverage left one dizzy, rather than informed.

Monday night's fire at the LaSalle building was just as bad. In the grocery store on Tuesday I heard two neighbors complaining about the coverage: "They had no facts and no new news! Yet, they kept showing the blazing fire with the 'live' graphic implanted in the bottom of the screen, well into the night, even though the fire had been put out hours ago!" "You're right! There was nothing to report, but they kept the news crews there to cover nothing."

I didn't turn the TV on until 11:30pm. The fire started at 6:30pm (strangely, I was about three blocks away enjoying a cold beverage at the Daley Plaza Christkindle Market and must have left just as the blaze started...I didn't hear one siren). Even at 11:30pm, with the fire long before extinguished, the hype was still in full effect. Reporting from the woman on the scene was a compendium of rumor, images of the fire in full swing, people on gurneys, and so much emotion on steroids that I got that dizzy feeling again. The reporter had so much unverified information to say (my favorite was, "I spoke to a reporter who was on the other side of the building who told me that he talked to a firefighter who had been inside the building who said that he saw...") that she couldn't speak fast enough to get it all out. The spokesperson from the building then came out and fielded a series of ridiculous questions before getting annoyed and ending the interview.

Cut now to an earlier interview with an alderman where the reporter asked, "We heard rumors that two fireman are dead, is this true?!" Shouldn't this question have been asked off camera? And the information verified so we would have learned that, no, in fact no fireman were dead? Wives of fireman headed down to the scene in worry on broadcast of this news, according to later reports. Irresponsible.

Pure hype.


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