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Some events attract immediate notoriety. Does that mean you should offer your opinion on them? No! (Bloggers take note!)….
On the night of Vancouver’s Stanley Cup riot I was reading a book. The hockey fans in the household — my husband and one of my daughters — were downstairs watching the game on TV. I could tell by the absence of cheers Vancouver was probably losing and eventually wandered into the TV room to see if I could drag my husband out for a walk
At once, I was caught in the death grip of the TV. Cars were on fire. Looters were throwing fences at police and breaking windows. About 30 ruffians had hauled themselves up onto a glass roof structure near a large downtown theatre and it looked on the verge of collapse. Tear gas bombs were exploding and TV anchors could barely talk. I was transfixed. And this was before I remembered that my 17-year-old son was stranded downtown.
He wasn’t there to watch hockey. He’s assistant sound manager for a summer theatre company and was stuck in a rehearsal hall –- directly across the street from one of the burning cars. When we heard the bridges to downtown were being closed, our hearts sank. We texted him and learned the director had locked the door and was refusing to let anyone leave. “Well, he can probably sleep there,” my husband said bleakly.
We watched TV for several more anxious hours and my son finally walked in our door around 11:30 pm. The director had arranged for rides home, avoiding bridges, for everyone stranded.
Riots are bad enough, especially if you’re a worried parent, but if you ask me, the worst thing about the event has been the media coverage afterwards. Almost two weeks following the riots, our papers are still filled with news, ruminations, accusations and feeble analyses.
The temptation is obvious. Just as crows are attracted by shiny objects so, too, the media is lured by the spectre of violence, broken windows, public drunkenness and blame. I used to work in a newsroom and I know what happens when a senior editor gets it in his or her mind that a story has “legs.” The story takes over. No one is allowed to exercise his or her own brain.
This time the story has even attracted more than the usual suspects. For example, I just received an email from a psychologist whose work I have followed with some interest over the years. He had written a blog post about delinquency, tied it into the riot and ended with a sales pitch for his book. Sheesh! (I promptly unsubscribed from his newsletter.)
Let me say this: I have no opinion on the riot except to say that I believe it’s complicated and defies easy explanation. The event needs to be examined by experts — sociologists, criminologists and psychologists — and their study will take time. Anything you read within a year of the event is not likely to be carefully thought out enough or have enough distance to provide clear vision.
Certainly the immature pandering in most of the daily newspapers has been a waste of ink, trees and, readers’ time. (And when I say, “immature pandering,” I’m not referring to legitimate news coverage. Sadly, that represents only a tiny percentage of ink spilled on the topic.)
Here’s a suggestion: If you have a choice and are asked to write about a topic on which you have nothing new to contribute, don’t write. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to refuse to write about something and find a more interesting topic instead.
I regret having to tell a story about the hockey riot in order to make that point.
Photo courtesy Charles de Jesus, Flickr Creative Commons