Dan Wheldon Indycar Crash Raises Questions of Media Coverage of Death

Uploaded by MidweekPolitics on 17.10.2011

David: Before we take a break, I want to briefly talk about the Indy 300 situation with Dan
Wheldon. This is a really unfortunate situation where yesterday, Sunday, I was at the gym
on the treadmill, and they had this race up from Las Vegas. There was a crash. It was
revealed that Dan Wheldon, one of the racers, had died during the crash. CNN started reporting
on it, it started popping up on lots of other screens that were there in front of me.
And every death is tragic. I have no problem with this being reported, people care about
Indy car racing, but I can't help but think of the fact that these are people who make
a lot of money in a profession they're choosing to go into knowing the risks. Everybody knows
it's a particularly dangerous profession to have. And there is just almost no attention
being paid to so many other places in the world where tens of thousands of people are
being tortured or in slavery or dying, tens of thousands of kids dying from hunger. They're
not choosing to go into any dangerous profession, they're just dying.
And Natan doesn't like this line of reasoning, I can tell.
Natan: No. I mean, I don't see how... I mean, you could argue the same thing for the entire
reporting of sports. I mean, they're athletes, they get paid millions of dollars, why report
anything that happens in sports?
David: No, I think that's different.
Natan: Or, even if you accept that OK, this is a death, so it's different, well, what
about like a baseball player getting killed in a car crash? I mean, how is it any different?
Should none of that be reported?
David: I'm not saying it shouldn't be reported. It makes it incredibly clear the disparity
in terms of how much we're hearing... if the idea is this is sad and people should be concerned,
right, if that is the idea, which it may not be, it may be this is sensationalist, this
is someone people know about, if the idea is to report news about places where bad things
are happening, there's plenty that we're not hearing a word about.
Do you agree with Natan on this that... I mean, where do you fall on this, Monte?
Monte: I fall a little bit more on your side, I think.
David: OK.
Monte: Where they should cover it, there should be some coverage of it, but that there are
plenty of other things that go absolutely under-covered or never covered that are of
vastly more importance in the grand scheme of things. That being said, those kids aren't
rich and famous, so why would we care about them?
David: Well, is that what it is?
Monte: I think that's why, you know, we sell what sells. And these people are rich and
are famous, and we care about Steve Jobs dying than the million other people that died that
David: Than all of the people that committed suicide from stress in Foxcon factories where
they are making the iPhones, for example.
Monte: Right.
David: What were you going to say, Natan?
Natan: No, all I'm saying is that I don't know how we can single out this specific story
in terms of, you know, not reporting on something more important.
David: I'm not singling it out, it's a catalyst for discussing this on the show. In other
words, if there's a set number of minutes that are going to be devoted to people dying
on every newscast, why is it only when it's a racecar guy who has chosen to drive a car
at 240 miles an hour in a circle versus all of the kids who were just born into poverty?
There's much more we could do...
Natan: Yeah, I mean, I think...
David: There's much more people could do if they heard about the kids dying in Africa
than anybody is going to do about keeping these guys safe on the road, right?
Natan: That's true.
David: The individual can do much more about the kids in Africa.
Natan: That's true, I just... I could make the same point every time there's another
Republican debate. I think this week they're going to have their 12th debate or something.
David: Yeah.
Natan: And, you know, we could say the same for most of the news that's covered. I mean,
there are more important things that could result in greater audience awareness about
important issues than what's actually reported.
Monte: If they don't report on this issue, who's going to convince Danica Patrick to
drive again? It's the only real reason to watch the sport.
David: Yeah, I guess that's the question.
Natan: But in all seriousness... in all seriousness, though, I mean, this is a dangerous sport,
and if, you know, reporting this issue will make people lobby for a safer sport, I'd say
that's a legitimate use of media.
David: How many people will marginally safer Indy car restrictions save versus the number
of people that could be saved if a few thousand people got involved... a few more thousand
people got involved with tuberculosis in Africa? I don't know, I mean, if the idea is how many
people will be saved as a result of engagement, there's much better topics to discuss on CNN,
I think.
Natan: Once again, the same argument could be made about almost anything that's reported.
Monte: But it's... think about how the media works, you have to sell what's selling. Even
us, you know, informally, we're talking about the kinds of things that people gravitate
towards your show about may not be the things that are the... are the meat and potatoes
of the show.
David: Right.
Monte: People and the media trying to generate ad revenue is going to sell what's selling,
and what sells is fiery car crash in Indy car, and what never sells, unfortunately,
except for the small, independent media such as yourself, are the trials and tribulations
of children in Africa.
Natan: I mean, if I were going to make your argument, I'd say that our local news channel
and probably a lot of, you know, local news channels in the U.S., they have like one third
of their time spent on talking about the weather.
David: Oh, believe... I've done my local weather rant. Local weather, it's so popular, people
want to see the weather. I don't know why, I look it up on my phone, I know...
Monte: It is true!
David: I know the weather for the next week. We're way over time; we'll do the local media
rant a different day. Let's take a break. Please make sure to like The David Pakman
Show on Facebook, www.Facebook.com/DavidPakmanShow, and we'll be back with Adam Winkler in just
a couple minutes.
Announcer: The David Pakman Show at www.DavidPakman.com.
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