We’ve all been rocked and saddened this week by the tragedy in Blacksburg. Despite our fierce rivalry with the Hokies, we all are college students and share a common bond. One thing I noticed over these past few days has been the media coverage, blanketing the campus and interviewing everyone possible. I began to wonder, what kind of coverage would be done if something like that happened here?
The Rock would be swarmed with media, so students would of course have to move any vigil they would like to hold to some other venue. The BankUnited Center would be rented out, so I’m sure students couldn’t go there either.
The blame would go immediately to the football team. Sports pundits like Bill Plaschke and Mark May would call for the athletic department to be carpet-bombed, and the immediate arrest of every athlete on campus. Surely, if it happened at UM and it was bad, it’s the athletic department’s fault.
Next would be the criticism of university president Donna Shalala, citing her time with the Clinton administration. Surely, without his passing of the Brady Bill, students could have been armed with Uzis and handled the gunman themselves.
Ultimately, the public at large will decide that this kind of thing is just what happens in Miami; it’s “Thug U,” so why should we be surprised?
How can I make these assumptions? Because the same kind of reaction is unleashed whenever this university is faced with tragedy. Bryan Pata’s murder was used by the media to attack the University of Miami. Just look at MSNBC’s Mike Celizic, who said this after Pata’s murder:
“And so, it really doesn’t matter why Pata was shot or by whom. He played for the Hurricanes. He died violently. If it happened at Ohio State, we’d be shocked. But at Miami, a lot of people will say it’s not even a surprise: when you recruit thugs, such things happen.”
Of course, it was the university’s fault. By recruiting guys other teams had given up on, someone came and shot Pata.
Look at the Willie Cooper/Brandon Meriweather shooting last summer. Cooper and Meriweather, noticing a suspicious vehicle circling their house, investigated. They were shot at. Meriweather returned fire in defense, with a registered gun. What was the response from the media? “Let’s get Miami.”
Instead of worrying about the status of Cooper, it became a pile-on. Remove Cooper and Meriweather from the team, put Miami on probation, and what else can we do to them?
So what is the point? Is the coverage that important? Don’t most people tune out the media anyway? As I’ve been watching the coverage, I have felt such compassion for Virginia Tech. That university needs everyone now, as they grieve and try to move on. As I came to the realization about what would happen at Miami, I grew scared. Would anyone be there in our time of need? As time went by, I came to a realization: they probably wouldn’t.
Matthew Bunch is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism and economics. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org