The media provides the public with current events. Long before CNN or Fox News offered 24 hour news feeds, competition was ferocious between news outlets to cover breaking stories. Past tragedies and their media coverage have had a resonating effect in the way events are relayed to modern America. Time delays and editing bring up arguments of censorship, but certain acts are executed in the best interests of the public.
On January 28, 1986, classrooms all over are abuzz with excitement of the next space shuttle launch. The launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger was a truly special occasion. A new NASA program, the Teacher In Space Project, allowed high school teacher Christa McAuliffe to accompany NASA astronauts into space. Televisions were tuned into the launch and children watched with baited breath as the countdown took place. All of a sudden, 73 seconds into its flight, the space shuttle broke apart killing all on board including McAuliffe. This occurred with 85% of America watching and listening. A huge portion of the audience were American youth.
January 22,1987, Senator R. Budd Dwyer held a press conference discussing his involvement in a bribery scandal. Cameras continued to roll even after noticing his highly agitated appearance. His speech was telecast live and cameras continued to roll as Senator Dwyer pulled a gun. He gave envelopes to staff members and committed suicide by placing the gun in his mouth and pulling the trigger. This event was witnessed at home by women and children. High school classes watched the telecast for social studies. Television studios scrambled to edit the footage for later broadcasting.
In 1988, Gary Heidnik was convicted of kidnapping, torturing and murdering women in the Philadelphia area. Details were slowly being released about the living conditions of the women. The Philadelphia Daily News prominently displayed illustrated diagrams of the torture chamber on the front page of their periodical. Illustrations concerning the Heidnik trial became a daily occurrence for the periodical that claimed large sales numbers due to their trial coverage. This paper was displayed on counters in stores where people bought their children. Due to numerous complaints, Philadelphia newspapers no longer display such gruesome artwork on their covers.
All of the events previously mentioned have really encouraged the media to review how the news is conveyed to the public. Realizing the impulsive nature of mankind, it was wise to place time delays on live productions to spare viewing audiences any negative surprises. Print media has abandoned sensationalism opting instead to produce quality stories and remain sensitive to the needs of it's public. Society needs to be informed, not shocked with their news.