Or Is The LA Times Serious?
I feel pretty bad even posting a link to this article. If there were a way for something on the internet to get negative hits, I think this would be a potential contender for that. In case you would like to not rot your brain a little more today, I will do my best to sum it up to you: The LA Times, a “newspaper”, have used an attention grabbing headline to push a story that basically says that the flow of booze and freedom to party at SXSW is what directly lead to the deadly car crash that happened last night. They go on to interview two people who were not only affected by the tragedy and potentially in some kind of shock, but also were in no way presented as qualified to be speaking about such things. And those two people are entitled to their opinions, absolutely. But the context in which they were presented by these “journalists” was nothing short of a gossip rag that one might use to cover up the countdown clock on the elliptical at the gym.
We could have talked about drugs and alcohol. We could have talked about youth. We could have talked about how people of all races and colors are committing crimes, but are being treated very differently by the judicial system. I recently read an article about a man who, after having a few drinks at a bar, got into a cab which was later rear ended by a drunk driver, resulting in the death of the man who had hired the cab. Are we going to start talking about how dangerous cabs are compared to driving yourself home after the bar? If the Times were reporting on that story, I wouldn’t have been surprised if that was their angle, given the tact and thought that they gave here. Are they just pissed off because they didn’t get on the list for the Jay-Z show? Likely. But it’s no excuse for shitty reporting.
Although the news is still fresh to a lot of people, there are some fact that are known about this tragedy. One person committed a terrible and reckless act, and as a result, two people are dead and many are injured. The crime in question really started in a different city, Fort Hood, where the accused stole a vehicle. There is absolutely no evidence of any of the following:
- That the accused was at any SXSW sanctioned event prior to the incident.
- That the accused was a registered participant or artist at SXSW.
- That the accused was aware of the various SXSW sanctioned events that were going on in the area at the time.
A far more meaningful piece, one actually rooted in journalism, may have been about the devestating effects of drunk driving and addiction. This story doesn’t cite one fact or statistic, except that SXSW is drawing in bigger acts. A simple Google search would have lead them to find out the following:
- In 2011, 1.2 million people were arrested in the US for driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
- The rate of drunk driving is highest among 21-25 year olds (24%)
- Every day in the US, 28 people are killed by impaired drivers.
- Drunk dirving costs the US government $132 billion dollars annually.
The final statistic that I will share is this: The number of drunk driving deaths in North America has been reduced by half since 1980, which is when MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) began their advocacy work. What this proves is that information can and does promote change. And this article could have been a great opportunity for The LA Times to contribute to that in a small way. Instead, they chose to be lazy, appear uninformed and talk about the free booze and corporate sponsorship at the festival (like all festivals!) instead of the things that SXSW and other arts festival organizers put into place to curb impaired driving - increased public transportation, bike valets, shuttles, etc.
I’m angry, but I used up most of my big words at work today. We could have a whole other discussion about journalistic integrity, and how access to quick information and photos from the scene have entirely altered the way we think of and accept news. But what I will leave you with is this:
Those who look at the world through a narrow lens are often the most taken back when the real world happens to them. The more you know, the better equipped you can be to help others and yourself get through tough times. No one has all the answers, but by accepting blind ideas as fact, no one can get closer to the truth.
The collective hearts of everyone who heard the news from The Mohawk last night goes out to the victims and their families. Let us not disregard the family of the accused, as their world has likely been destroyed in a different way as well. Just love each other, and be mindful. Don’t be an idiot, basically. And if you are struggling with addiction, know that there are resources to help you, and people who love you.
So if you, like me, are wondering how The LA TImes draws the conclusion that this was somehow the fault of SXSW or its participants, I implore you to share this information and share your opinion with the paper. They have twitter (@latimes) and a comment section on their website. Let them know how you feel.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The LA Times sandwich stories (before and after) this one are ‘Apple Adds a Selfie App’ and ‘The World’s Biggest Underbite!’, so… grain of salt, everyone. Grain of salt.