News

Editorial: The Pedagogy of Tragedy

For me, Saturday, February 1st was a very busy day. My head swam and wheezed to maintain order of my obligations ranging from the paper to the AASU conference. Sneaking a moment from the day, I opened internet explorer to Yahoo!. Without warning, my day hit an instant and dramatic pause caused by five words. There, on the Yahoo! frontpage, written as plainly as a stock quote, the words read; “Shuttle Breaks up on Reentry”.

I was completely blindsided. At first, I had no idea what was reading or seeing. The tragedy sat silently on my screen, seeming more like just words, than a reference to the streaming comet that we have seen ubiquitously on all media outlets. There was no measure of intensity or significance in the presentation of the words, just a link to more stark short sentences. As I clicked around on different websites, I started to awaken to the realization that a great tragedy had just happened, again.

1986 seemed like such a long time ago, and it seemed literally impossible that it could be happening again.

After recovering from the initial shock, I needed to find out was going on. Ironically with all of the information available to me at the touch of a finger on the internet, felt an overwhelming urge to ask my friends on instant messager what they were seeing on television. Suddenly, I realized that really wasn’t searching for information any longer. I was searching for reassurance.

For some reason, in spite of the sensationalism, there is something more personal about following the breaking news with a television anchor; watching a tragedy on television some reason provides the feeling that the anchor is following and experiencing each tense, painful, surreal and anxious moment along with you.

While television news is faster than news on the internet, I realized that my internal impulses drawing me toward television were more than just about the speed of information. For some reason, in spite of the sensationalism, there is something more personal about following the breaking news with a television anchor; watching a tragedy on television some reason provides the feeling that the anchor is following and experiencing each tense, painful, surreal and anxious moment along with you. No moment more readily showed Americans where our comfort and security lay than September 11th; on February 1st, we were shown again.

After 9/11, I began to think that anytime I went to the internet, that I needed to prepare myself for an unexpected disaster.

I remembered reading that Aaliyah had died on Yahoo!; I recall thinking that it was unfair to find out that way. There was no warning. The words were just there in the middle of the course of searching for that night’s box scores or while going to read e-mail. After 9/11, I began to think that anytime I went to the internet, that I needed to prepare myself for an unexpected disaster. It may be an unfair expectation, but the Internet seems tactless and insensitive during such times. “Aaliyah Dies in Plane Crash”, “Shuttle Breaks up on Reentry”, and what next. I fashion the internet sometimes as the stern doctor that tells you that you have a month to live, then promptly excuses himself to his tee time.

As February 1st changed into a day that I will never forget, I found myself removed from the internet, and re-rooted in McCullough lounge in front of the idiot box turned security blanket. February 1st certainly won’t be the last time that we are caught by surprise by terrible news, and the internet, which seems to always only an arm’s length away will often be the messager. Based on the technology and the structure of news delivery, we will have to wait some time before the internet masters the nuances that we take for granted from television. In spite of all of its ails, television still is a reliable friend that has been there through the best and worst of times.

Allen Narcisse
Editor In Chief

February 10, 2003
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