By VIRGINIA TRIOLI
It all started out pretty reasonably.
On the morning of the Boston bombings, after almost four hours of rolling coverage on ABC News Breakfast, many viewers were becoming increasingly agitated that a series of bombings overnight in Iraq, in which 50 died and more than 200 were injured, had not received anywhere near the attention of the American attack. It was a perfectly valid point – an obvious one, even. It’s a dilemma we always confront when attacks in the West inevitably get more coverage than those elsewhere.
After reading all the critical emails, I could see their point and I said, “That’s the contrast that we always have on a day like today when it seems to many we’re overly focusing on what happens to rich, white people in the West versus what happens on a daily basis in those countries”.
As a result of quoting our audience disquiet, the online world exploded in rage. I’ve been accused of racism; racial profiling; absolving the bomber/s; failing to care about dead children; and being a danger to the country. I am apparently a “fascist, socialist pig” (both!).
I’ve also been abused in the most disgusting and personal terms, but that just goes with the territory these days.
Those shouting me down failed to see that Australia now consists of many who come originally from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and elsewhere and they will be as desperately interested in news from there as some of us might be for news from England. The country has changed – our reporting needs to reflect that.
An inaccurate transcript popped up on a blog, and we were off. And the chance of having a sensible discussion about how we choose what we report was lost.
As a reporter I don’t grade one life over another, and I believe it’s a dangerous and ugly business deciding to assign different values to each. As I said on air the next day, in raising viewer concerns and this thorny issue I certainly didn’t mean to offend anyone.
Michael Rowland and I then spoke candidly about the dilemma of which lives get more attention by news organisations, and this prompted many thoughtful, intelligent, and diverse responses to what viewers see on TV every day.