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As the 2010 Olympic games in Vancouver conclude over the next two weeks, highlights will run for the next four years with gold medal finishes and disappointing defeats. Thanks (or no) to the all seeing eye that is news media, one image is sure to stay with viewers for a very long time afterwards.

Or will it?

The death of a luge competitor making a training run on Day 1  made the larger than life events seem just the opposite. Opening Ceremonies saw members of the Georgian Olympic team in obvious shock and sadness.  For many of the 50,000 attending, the Republic of Georgia became the underdog to win a medal of any kind in that moment. But what of the hundreds of millions who couldn’t be there in that instant?

We watch and move on. We feel bad and wish it hadn’t happened, but move on. We are amazed by the man’s skill, thrilled by the speed and excitement, even appreciate the stunning photos and video. By tomorrow we’ve forgotten everything that was written about him. We disregard the image.

Why?

Tigers and penguins. According to CBS News, a South Korean zoo had their tiger cubs and baby penguins celebrating the new year with visitor activities. Following a thirteen second clip of the Vancouver tragedy, two and a half minutes were devoted to the protected breeding and nurture of South Korean zoo animals. Wait. WHICH clip was thirteen seconds?!

Thankfully, CBS covered all their bases by labeling the horrendous luge video “Graphic” in the headline. Exercising my profound naivety, I hoped for a news package to accompany the video. I was disappointed. I was also unsuspecting. Failing to exercise their right of optional video queue loops, CBS threw me a curveball. Tigers and penguins.

Maybe they arranged it as a kicker piece to leave viewers informed and entertained. Maybe and more likely, the two videos were randomly generated for that media page but at opposite sides of the news spectrum. Regardless, the revelation was there.

CBS News felt confident in placing a 13 second clip depicting a tremendous athlete losing his life. 13 seconds, by itself to tell a story. A story some would argue, told far too often from the media. CBS was not alone either. NBC’s coverage of the incident was no better. Choosing to play the video along with explicit photographs in many of their packages. Being informative can also be courteous, can it not?

There is always something to be learned from news. If not, it would not be truly newsworthy. Reporters and journalists cannot be afraid to sit behind the desk at home as well as work. We’ve got to learn. We’ve got to progress. What type of lasting effect does visual media have, and how relevant is it to what we want to say?

We cannot equate life and death to baby tigers and penguins.

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