Sunday, March 20, 2005

Terri Schiavo

The hullabaloo surrounding the Terri Schiavo euthanasia case (see this BBC report for the latest gory details) is only the latest example of how a simple-yet-appealing news story with limited applicability to the rest of us can hijack the news agenda increasingly set by cable TV. Just like that, Iraq and Social Security and Medicaid and North Korea and Bolton at the UN and Wolfowitz at the World Bank and drilling in ANWAR and baseball steroid use and March Madness all go out the window (OK, maybe not March Madness). It also helps that Schiavo was quite pretty in previous years and the media love any excuse to frame a news story around images of a pretty woman (I'm not kidding about this!). And then Congress and Pres Bush get involved (after years of completely ignoring this issue while it slowly wound its way through the Florida courts) and suddenly it's all completely out of whack. This story gets some traction - and legitimacy - because it taps into the latest round of the culture wars; but really it's yet another excuse for Fox, MSNBC, and CNN to wheel their wall-to-wall coverage over to a newly incandescent issue that will fade as quickly as it burst into life. ( provides a handy little explainer about the case, which, with this war room piece from Salon is about all you need to know.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm still coming out of my vacation-induced news vacuum as well, but it amazes me how quickly this story has become "our top story," even knocking the freak-fest that is the Jackson trial off its perch.


3/22/2005 2:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another interesting angle I heard on this story this morning on NPR that goes to your "media love a pretty woman" theory: Would this even be a story is Terri Shaivo were 65 years old instead of 40 and the same set of circumstances applied? I don't think so.


3/25/2005 1:13 PM  
Anonymous Leah Elder said...

Considering that Terri Shiavo had been on life support for many years, I find it interesting that it suddenly became so important to the media when there was talk of removing her from life support. In my opinion, it is important, because there are many similar cases all around the world that need to be recognized. But they are not newsworhy? I agree that the fact that she was a beautiful woman had a big infuence on the story but I think that there should have been more influence on why her unworthy cheating husband wanted her life support to be removed. I agree that the story was not of such importance that it should have shadowed out most of the other national and international news but it couldn't be left out completely. Perhaps a little more consideration about importance and relevance by the media is necessary.

9/14/2005 10:58 AM  
Anonymous Leah said...

It also seems a little fishy to me that her parents had no say over her husband who cheated on her and now has children with another woman... maybe he just wanted to remarry and not have to pay for a divorce. Morals anyone?

9/14/2005 11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In our society we tend to classify people as dead once their heart is no longer working, but we cannot decide on when to decide death on the amount of brain activity. What would be a reasonable amount of brain activity to be still alive and what would be the cut off for death? Any brain activity could be a possibility for life, but it could mean the person will live a very limited life. This life could consist of being confined to a bed or wheelchair, no talking, just moaning, etc. Would you be happy with that life? Also, in our society, many people have documents declaring whether or not they would want to be resuscitated. More people need to realize that cases more based on brain activity do happen and we should be more prepared in telling our loved ones our wishes. Making the decision is hard. Who are we to decide whether or not someone should die? We should not have to.

-Kaitlyn Collins

3/02/2006 10:58 AM  

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