I’ve never been to Blacksburg and I damn sure don’t want to go now. But when the worst campus massacre in recorded history happens less than three hours from your TV station, a sudden jaunt North cannot be ruled out. Friends of mine are already there, dispatched early in the day before the scope of this ghastly event was fully realized. I don’t envy them. Clustered around satellite trucks and a makeshift podium, they’re left to process whatever scraps officials feed them as unseen producers scream in the ear for one more tidbit, one more live shot, one more grim-faced wrap-up of the ‘unspeakable tragedy‘.
To make things infinitely worse, broadcasting’s most over-coiffed correspondents are there too. Lauer, Williams, Couric and the like - all flanked by deadpan camera crews and excitable producers. Before I even think to turn my TV back on they’ll have draped their most somber logo over every facet of this fresh cataclysm - grilling witnesses, lining up guests, jockeying for a better camera spot. By show-time, Virginia Tech’s darkest day will be expertly accented in network-level three point lighting. Roll the news music’s most plaintive cut, cue the grimaces all around and standby for Columbine 2.0.
I don’t mean to take away from the victims’ families. Their pain has just begun. I just hope their trauma isn’t too exacerbated by the feeding frenzy of the local yokels and media elite. For they deserve better. Losing a loved one so senselessly is punishment enough. Being goaded by a hungry press while your pain is still so new is often more than I can take (or dish-out at times). Still, there won’t be any shortage of breathless bystanders on the late and early newscasts. This is, after all, America in the year 2007. We even grieve in Hi-Def. Thing is, I no longer yearn to wrangle misery though a tube. I’ll go if I have to, but forgive me if, this time, I don’t volunteer.