Branding Tragedy

(CBS/The Early Show)
In Advertising Age, Simon Dumenco argues that "[w]e've come to the point at which murderous psychopaths and TV news executives are of the same mind when it comes to human tragedy: It's a branding opportunity."

For evidence, Dumenco points to the graphics used in coverage of the Virginia Tech tragedy. He criticizes CBS and other networks for their choices but reserves the most scorn for CNN, writing that the network's "animated MASSACRE AT VIRGINIA TECH logo throbbed and twirled with all the subtlety of an 'American Idol' bumper."

There's no denying that the graphics used by the networks sometimes seemed obscene – did we really need dramatic fonts and graphics of gun sights to convey the enormity of this tragedy? It's rather depressing to think that news outlets felt they needed these kinds of bells and whistles to draw viewers in; one would like to think the horrible reality of the situation, minus the graphical theatrics, would have been enough.

Another aspect of this is the words news outlets used to describe what happened. As I noted last week, CBS News opted to switch from the word "massacre" to "tragedy" to describe the shootings. I think that was the right call: "Massacre" is not an inaccurate word, but there is something salacious about it. And the switch to "tragedy" seemed appropriate as the story evolved from one focused on the actions of the shooter to one focused on the response of the community.