Sunday, May 1, 2011
For the fashionistas, the wedding of at least the last two or three decades, complete with unimaginable pageantry and tradition was the most important story. Period. The bride was beautiful, the groom was handsome, and the fairytale atmosphere was exactly what thousands of little girls dreamed it would be.
For the disaster groupies, the terrible, terrible catastrophe of super tornadoes striking cities and country, leaving grief and destruction in their paths was a once in a century event. Death, loss, and terror stretched out over five days as storms and tornadoes wreaked havoc.
Those were the top two stories in the outer world. In Romancelandia though, the top story was about a quiet erotic romance writer. Her story was just the beginning of a firestorm that raged over social networks, blogs, newspapers, and television. What's up with that, you say? She's a teacher in her "daytime life"...an English teacher for twenty-five years and by all accounts an excellent one. A couple parents found out what her "parttime" job was and they took it upon themselves to "out" her, revealing her penname (or real name) depending on your view point.
All three stories were certainly newsworthy for different reasons. The media bytes revealed the pecking order for each story, though.
Wedding? Oh, yes. Coast-to-coast coverage from every possible angle. Absolutely. I don't begrudge the bridal couple their day. Quite frankly, they're going to pay for that with a lifetime of servitude and loss of privacy. I don't envy either of them the ride. I can't imagine living life under such an intense microscope where you're scrutinized every time you walk out your door.
Death-dealing tornadoes? Not so much. Over the course of the week I talked to people in other parts of the country that weren't even aware of the extent of the devastation. To people who've never lived in tornado country, a tornado is a tornado is a tornado. Many of them don't understand in fifteen minutes or less a tornado can pretty much turn a prosperous little town into a total wasteland that looks like a war zone.
As for the teacher/writer. Well, her colleagues turned out in force via the social media and backed her up. I'm proud of those who put up their hands to say this is wrong. I suspect there was a huge response because this fight was something people could do. It was something they felt capable of doing. After all, a tornado and the aftermath is beyond our capabilities, but this first amendment fight was not.
Ultimately, it might be the actual dissemination of information that determines response. We live in an age where we no longer expect detailed information and when a story requires more than 140 characters we turn away in boredom or irritation.
Well. Some stories are bigger than 140 characters. Some stories demand more than a perfunctory three minutes on the evening news. And now that newspapers aren't around anymore to disseminate in-depth news, where will we get the real deal?
No matter how accomplished we are as writers or photographers or videographers, we need more than five minutes to convey the breath-taking pageantry of a royal wedding or the unimaginable horror of a EF5 tornado or the legal intricacies of how an author defends her career choice to the school board. We need more than a media byte.