View Full Version : how do you deal with TV tragedy

05-22-2007, 06:23 AM
Hi all,
I am doing a story for a UK parenting/women's e-zine on how watching tragedy on TV (and the massive coverage accompanying this these days) can make you miserable and glum. I would like to include some personal experiences of how people avoid letting it get to them. All help is appreciated. PM me if that's easier.

05-22-2007, 05:52 PM
Is this real life tragedy (like the ongoing Madelaine McCann case on the UK news) or fictional tragedy?

05-22-2007, 10:09 PM
I simply don't watch the news anymore.

05-23-2007, 03:24 AM
Yes, real life tragedy, the Madeline McCann case being a good example. Others are Virginia Tech shootings, where many networks showed disturbing (for some anyway) footage of the manifesto sent to them by the gunman, or 24-7 coverage of terrorists attacks.

05-23-2007, 03:28 AM
you say it's a parenting/women's mag. Is your angle to help the women cope or give advice to help children cope?

05-23-2007, 03:42 AM
The popular US TV show called "ER" had its debut season while I was pregnant with my first. It was a good show with well-developed, complex characters and riveting, multi-threaded plots. In one episode a pregnant woman came in, really sweet, with her loving husband, yadda yadda yadda, things go wrong, misdiagnosis, worse and worse, and in the end she dies. That hurt and I was furious. I felt I'd been emotionally manipulated, in a brutal way, for dramatic effect. I never watched ER again after that.

Also while I was pregnant with my first I ended up on strict bedrest for 8 weeks. I barely ever got out of bed; only left the house for doctor visits. By the time I had my baby and was going out again, I was suddenly afraid of the world. It seemed like going out to dinner was like volunteering to be a victim of any one of the many crimes I'd been reading about in the newspaper for the past weeks. I finally resolved not to watch or read or listen to any traumatic or violent or horrible news stories. If someone started to tell me what latest horror they'd read about or seen on the news I'd ask them to stop. Sometimes I'd have to ask more than once, firmly. I felt like we were (and are) just revelling in the horror; it affected me too deeply to subject myself to it to indulge my morbid fascination.

I maintained that state of "news blackout" until 9/11/00. That was an experience we all had to share.

ETA: I composed this post before you specified what you were looking for. But oh well.

Jersey Chick
05-23-2007, 04:55 AM
I remember that ER - that is the last hospital I'd ever want to be treated in because very few make it out alive.

As for me - it depends on the incident. 9/11 was close personally and geographically and we were glued to the news for days. My daughter was only 8 months old, so we didn't worry about how it would affect her. It wore us out, but the sense of community that came out of that disaster made it bearable.

For other things, I watch the news after my kids are in bed. They don't need to see all the horror. When it gets to be too much for me, I watch classic television - comedies like All in the Family and M*A*S*H especially because they are still funny.

When all else fails, I pour a glass of wine and curl up with a good book.

05-23-2007, 05:29 AM
Easy - turn the TV off.

Of course that was impossible during the 9/11 tragedy. But really, was there anything wrong with feeling some depression over that? I guess if it became long-term, then there's something wrong. But then that leads back to my solution. Turn it off.

05-23-2007, 05:58 AM
you say it's a parenting/women's mag. Is your angle to help the women cope or give advice to help children cope?

helping the women cope

05-23-2007, 08:36 AM
Well when something horrific happens on the news my first reaction is something that should be funny if it wasn't actually happening. Like, I see the Virgina Tech shootings on the news paper and muttered, "Oh no, not again." (Douglas Adams reference).

And, in a particularly shamefull thing that jumped out of my mouth during 9/11, when I wasn't exactly sure what was happening, I said, "Someone set up us the bomb." (Zero Wing reference).

Kinda sad, huh? After my initial reaction, I tend to feel glum, then completely helpless. Cuase at my heart, I am a do-gooder. I really really want to HELP, but there's nothing I can do, damn it! Argh! It's so frustrating that it makes me want to scream.

Then I get on with my life. Cause no matter how bad the event is, we all have to get on with our lives eventaully. Some people take longer than others, but we all get back on track eventually. Sure the world has ended...but we still need to bring in the mail, wash the dishes, do the homework and so on. The nice thing about getting on with your life is that it distracts you and you feel better, but when you notice you are feeling better, you feel guilty about feeling better...

05-23-2007, 07:14 PM
For me, the coping lies in the decision-making....deciding what's necessary and useful to watch, and what's just plain voyeurism. There are some things, like 9-11, that are critical to know both as they are happening, and in the aftermath. Certainly, when survival or imminent crisis are at issue, I watch. And a certain amount of post-game analysis for many things is warranted where it's necessary in the framing of reality-based views for informed decision-making down the road. Historical context is essential to a society, and is, alas, one of citizenry's civilization's great shortcomings.

Beyond that, even with an incident of national implication, the protracted marathon coverage of every little detail of a tragedy...the endless rehashing and hand-wringing, the meaningless and un-informed speculation and mikes being shoved in mourners' faces asking them how they "feel"--as if the answer isn't painfully obvious--well, enough is enough. When I can't do anything about a situation, when that next bit of new information changes nothing, that's when I get back to taking care of my corner of the world. And perhaps, in those seeming insignifcant daily efforts, lies the only real chance any of us have to prevent our own loved ones' being the next headline.

Up until just recently, most of these national or international stories would have been local stories. There is sadness and tragedy enough in our own lives and our own cities without taking on the burden of the world. It's an unbearable burden and there is a breaking point.

I find it sad, ironic, and sometimes sick that so much of the coverage of tragedy and heartbreak is packaged as a story of coping and healing, when in fact, the relentless coverage itself extended the scope of that hurt. Program directors too often traffic in human suffering or, in cases like Anna Nicole Smith, in the lurid and pathetic. Slowing down to look at a train wreck is one thing; pulling over and setting up a tailgate party is quite another.

So back to your original question. Coping is the art of balance and keeping a problem manageable. And that means not actively nurturing the problem while protesting how stressful it is. You don't cope with a headache by inviting people in to take turns whacking you with a hammer.

As an aside, I'd submit that those who immerse themselves in these stories and wallow in them belie by their actions any real desire to cope. In fact, I'd submit that for many, the pointless fretting and agonizing over the misfortune of strangers is a strange form of self-medication. It can serve as substitute for responsible stewardship over their own lives and relationships. They rationalize that, since they "care" so deeply, they're good people. The enormity of a tragedy halfway across the world is effective anesthetic to their own pain and shortcomings--for which they'd be otherwise be accountable in the quiet moments of personal reflection.

Wow, I had no idea I was going to go on like that. You evidently touched a nerve.

06-05-2007, 01:09 AM
Not sure if you still need this, but I cope with the influx of disturbing imagery in the news by looking at news web sites (bbc.co.uk, cnn.com, etc.) and reading only the headlines. If the headline sounds like it would lead to a story that I could spend the rest of my life happily not knowing the details of, I don't click the link.

You can generally get enough from a headline to know what the story is about, and particularly when it comes to stories about bad things happening to children, knowing the details brings nothing helpful or good to my life. Therefore I move on and don't invite the really bad stuff in, when I can avoid it. Because the web allows me to better control how much I know while still giving me access to as much detail as I want, I have stopped watching television news altogether.