A look at death in the media
Funeral plan specialist, Perfect Choice, takes a look at death in the media...
A fascination with death is not a new concept. When Egyptian Pharaohs or Mayan royals died they had huge monuments built for them in their memory. In recent times, especially that of social media, death has become a subject in which people publicly mourn. Devoted fans can often feel grief for the loss of celebrities, much the same as they would for members of their family or for friends. The way the media portrays the news of public death can often exacerbate these feelings.
If a celebrity death is unnatural or sudden the media will regularly latch on to it, which can often become very exploitative. The general public will often find a fascination with celebrity deaths that occur in such a way. This further pushes news agencies to cover as much information as they can gather surrounding the event. If a member of the public is involved in such a death the media will often find an area of interest on which they can focus a news report, for example their living arrangements or interests. Natural deaths will rarely gather any media attention, unless it’s that of a well-known person. For members of the public, death will usually only be reported as an obituary.
It has been found that generally the public will participate in mourning for a celebrity following their death but will mostly not show symptoms of grief. This may be due to cultural etiquette and feeling like they should be mourning, even if they don’t necessarily experience grief for the death. Social media has a lot to do with this phenomenon, seeing others mourning can evoke a want for inclusion, thus people find themselves involving in the grief. Public displays of grief can often drive selfless responses from others, with people want to help others when they are mourning.
The most recent case which saw a huge outpouring of public grief was the death of world renowned comedian and actor Robin Williams. Williams sadly committed suicide in 2014 reportedly following a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease coupled with long term depression. When the news of Williams’s death broke it was inescapable. Every single news outlet was reporting on some aspect of his death or his life. The public, driven by the media, discussed his death at length and also celebrated his life publicly via social media. As news of his death was still breaking discussion on twitter spiked to about 63,000 tweets a minute mentioning Robin Williams’s name.
The media is a clear influencer when it comes to public grief. As long as there is an angle the article can take, a publication will run with it until public interest wanes. In this way, the media fuels public interest in a death. If the news did not report it, a death may pass unknown apart from the attention of family and friends of the deceased.