Fox Shows a Suicide. What Are They Sorry About?
On September 28th, Fox News anchor Shepard Smith looked like a deer in the headlights. During his time slot behind the news desk, Fox live broadcasted a car chase scene out of Arizona.
The fugitive sped along dirt roads. He pulled over and got out of his truck. He put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. All of this was broadcasted before the producers could cut away.
“Get off, get off, get off, get off it,” Smith said frantically as the live feed lingered on the screen. The show cut to a commercial break. When it returned, Smith had some apologetic words for viewers. They sounded heartfelt and sincere.
The disconcerting fact of this situation is not the unfortunate image of a man shooting himself on cable television. It is the fact that a “news channel” was live broadcasting a car chase scene in first place.
New York Times writer Brian Stelter mentions in his article that national cable news networks sometimes pick up these car chase feeds — captured by local news helicopters in major cities — “especially on relatively slow news days.”
In the parallel universe of the new Information Age — a world that runs on real-time newsfeeds, that constantly demands new information, 24/7 — a car chase qualifies as Breaking News. In reality, it is closer to porn.
As sincere as Shepard Smith’s apology seemed, it is impossible for me to believe it. Because the reason Fox broadcasted that car chase is the same reason that amateur filmmakers decide to make porn. It is the same reason that Paramount Pictures has already announced plans for a Transformers 4. There is money to be made in providing viewers with such base stimulation.
Although Fox management would never admit to such a distorted point of view, a suicide is one of the best things that could happen when broadcasting a car chase. Guns. Violence. Death. This is sensational stuff. This is universally-appealing, buzz-worthy stuff. This is the kind of stuff that people like to Re-Tweet and read about on Gawker.
There is nothing wrong with this. It is cynical to belittle the fact that more people will have read about this story versus a story about war in Syria. This is human nature. The only thing wrong with this is that Shepard Smith felt the need to apologize for what happened.
Why did he look on with such horror as the car chase’s tragic ending played out?
By live broadcasting such a scene, Fox is already forfeiting its role as a legitimate provider of news. Shepard Smith, don’t feel sorry about a thing. You provided some enthralling entertainment.