|VIOLENCE IN THE MEDIA|
depictions of violence on film and television on the increase? Center
for Media and Public Affairs President Robert Lichter, Washington Post
columnist E.J. Dionne and director Rupert Wainwright take your questions.
Davis of New York, NY asks:
Discussions about violence in the media seem to exclude violence in news coverage, centering instead on fictional violence put out by Hollywood. Yet people regularly talk about copycat killings. Should violent images in the news be exempted from this debate?
Dear Mr. Davis:
You're right about the news. I don't think the issue is censoring the news. But there is much evidence, as I mentioned to Ms. Kai, that some local news shows go out of their way in search of violent stories and present a distorted picture of their own communities. The problem here is not just with violence. The obsession with crime coverage can also drive out much needed reporting on government and politics, and on community problems including -- among many others -- the schools, the health system, transportation, and work and family issues. The best local news shows are admirably fighting the "if it bleeds, it leads" trend, as it's known. More should.
Violence in news as well as entertainment media can produce either
copycat behavior or fearful withdrawal. The difference lies in the rationale
that the news brings us information that is
This is a very good question. No, they should not, but to come back to my main point, I believe that lethal violence in America would be decreased much more significantly by controlling access to guns than by censoring entertainment and news coverage. My concern is not that all images should be readily available to all people regardless of their age, but that I am very concerned about government organizations telling adults what they should and should not see.
Although there are apparently some obvious extremes in the censorship debate (I would personally find it hard to argue pro-people-being-able-to-watch-snuff-movies or videos of animals being tortured, for two examples). Ninety-nine percent of the debate takes place in the huge gray areas, and once a governmental organization starts deciding what is good violence or bad violence and what adults should be able to see, I fear greatly that -- human nature being what it is -- very significant restrictions on freedom of expression would result in all sorts of areas.