Saturday, April 20, 2013

Dear CNN

I learned about the Boston Marathon bombings on Tuesday morning last week as I saw a message on my way to work from a close friend who is a marathon runner.  Like the rest of the world, I was speechless, horrified and upset.  I run, have several friends that run, and my husband used to work for a Boston based company.  Even if you have a hundred degrees of separation for anyone or anything in Boston, it is horrifying.

Of course I wanted to learn more – how, why?  So just before I left home I quickly looked at the CNN website to read more about the incident.  I clicked on the headline and read an article that mentioned “two men of brown skin color that spoke with an accent” as well as a “Saudi man of interest taken into custody”.

My initial reaction was that "a brown man with an accent" seemed very vague.  That could potentially be one of more than 100 million people in the US!  I want to believe that you report the news objectively and confirm your sources and information.  I know I should know better as that ship sailed long ago, but yet I still find myself wanting to believe that the news reported is true.

So here we are a few days later after you announced an arrest when there was not yet any.  The suspects are Chechnyan.  They are not of the "brown man" genre, or from the region that you were hinting at with those statements.

This is nothing that you have probably not heard before:  News agencies have a huge influence on cultural awareness and understanding.  Playing on prejudices that already exist in some of the population only makes people more ignorant to the world around them.

I get that all news agencies have some kind of bias, but this feels like more than a bias.  It reads like propaganda, and not of the good kind.  If not propaganda, then your urgency to crack a story first results in fiction that can create hate and instill fear in the general public.

A few months ago our television provider re-categorized all the channels.  As a result there are two new categories, "News" and  "Factual".  I found it laughable at the time, but I now understand why it was best they do this.