Why the press coverage of the Madrid Disaster shocks us

 The Anglo in Hispanic blogosphere (http://www.notesfromspain.com/2008/08/25/morbo-spanish-news-media-horror/, http://southofwatford.blogspot.com/2008/08/madrid-airport-accidentthe-reactions.html, and other) has been buzzing with suggestions that the Spanish media coverage of the Madrid Air Disaster is because of some unique Spanish trait.

Well, I disagree. I don’t think it’s because of a TV programme in the 90’s, or because of pent up frustration after the Franco years or because of a uniquely Iberian curiosity towards death and destruction.

I think it’s a perfectly normal attempt by the press to cover all angles of an accident that has shocked the nation. I think that you could say that the French, or German, or Italian media would cover it in the same way. It’s a normal coverage of the personal stages of shock, as defined in psychology, and modified by the laws of the nation.

In the beginning, we had the shock. The photos, the 24 hours coverage of the smoke, the survivors.

Then, once the judicial process had begun (remember that Spanish law insists that the process be secret until finalised, this is not unique in this case and is demanded by law) and the photos and stories could no longer by published, we see the natural curiosity of the press unleashed. We see how they, muzzled as they are by Judge David, attempt to approach the story from all angles in order to bring closure to a grieving nation.

We then see the anger phase. The press (and readers) demand satisfaction. Was it Spanair’s fault? The governments? The Air ministry? Who? WHO? WHEN WILL WE HAVE ANSWERS? WHAT ARE YOU HIDING?

The next step, once the government releases the results of its investigation, will first be skeptical (coming to terms), then finally acceptance, then release. Always assuming no scandal is uncovered along the way.

Of course, in Britain, we are… perhaps inhibited is not the word. Our mentality, our mindset, the whole idea of “stiff upper lip” is still, albeit subconsciously, foremost in our newspapers minds. So when such papers as the Sun release their pent up emotions they do it in a torrent of fury and emotion.

Which is, as a nation, the healthiest outlet? Well, I don’t think the whole concept of “judicial secrecy” helps matters here in Spain. It causes the bottling up of the grieving and curiosity phases, which results in morbid photos, wild accusations, political intrigue and all the rest. Which we, are British, cannot comprehend, but in its own small way helps the public to make sense of the tragic, tragic accident.

One Reply to “Why the press coverage of the Madrid Disaster shocks us”

  1. Yes, I agree with you that the press reaction would’ve been the same regardless of the country. The initial accounts about the number of dead and injured were so varied and incorrect that it only makes sense that people were desperate for information, any kind of information. Also, initially reports said that the plane skidded off the runaway, then that the engine exploded in the air and then that the plane crashed seconds after takeoff. All the initial news accounts were so confusing and initially misleading.

    The press is damned if it does, damned if it doesn’t, in the first day of coverage of a tragedy like this. If they blanket the airwaves with wall-to-wall coverage, people complain that it is too much. If they continue to air their regularly scheduled programming, people think that the tv media is being callous and insensitive.

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