Tonight, I went to see Non-Stop. That movie definitely kept me on the edge of my seat, but the reason why I’m putting this on a blog that’s supposed to be about journalism is because it actually revealed a lot about how the media works today. Before I go into the journalistic connection behind this suspenseful-thriller, I have to give a little background information (don’t worry, there won’t be any spoilers).
Non-Stop takes place on a plane en-route to London.The air marshal, Bill Marks (Liam Neeson), receives a text message saying that one passenger will be killed every 20 minutes unless $150 million is transferred to a given bank account. Marks tries to identify the source of the texts among the 150 passengers on board.1 Initially, he conducts random searches and makes announcements that make the people on board confused and anxious while withholding as much information as possible since any one of them could be the culprit. Thanks to technology, the passengers initial source of news about their flight comes from none other than the national news streaming live on their individual television screens, and a lot of where those news stations are getting their information is coming from onboard footage taken by a teenage boy with a camera phone.
That’s when it struck me, the very people involved in the situation find their information from a secondhand source. Obviously, Marks doesn’t tell the passengers all the information due to security and safety precautions as he doesn’t want everyone to panic and he doesn’t want to agitate the terrorist behind the threatening text messages. However, the whole situation brings me to ask two questions:
- With the advancement of technology, is it really possible to control when and how information gets out?
- Was it really safer and more desirable that the passengers had to eventually find out from the newscast rather than hear directly from the authorities on board?
News spreads. That’s a fact that has been true in every time period, but in the 21st century where we have all types of information at the end of our fingertips, the dynamics have changed a lot.
Whether in big corporations or governments, certain information is withheld because of the danger or negative effects it could have on those connected to the situation, but today, anybody with a camera and access to the internet can release news no matter how accurate or useful the content is. It is weird how today, in the name of safety, security and confidentiality those who are directly involved in a situation sometimes get updates and news about their predicament from those who aren’t even in a 25 mile radius from them and have no connection or involvement in the crises at hand. Who gets to know? Those involved or those searching for news? And who tells them? Someone on the scene or is news developed from rumors and speculation?
Sorry to throw a bunch of questions at you, I might be rambling at this point but it just really stood out to me. I want to clarify however, that I’m not saying that people should not get their information from the news media, that would most likely put me out of a future job. However, many times, especially when it comes to sensitive situations, the information is gathered from tweets and word of mouth instead of given directly from the authorities or people who know first hand what is going on and can give the right information for the media to disperse. While some information does need to be guarded, sometimes, we get a little too protective of our information, until it finds another, usually messier, way to get out to the public. When it comes to releasing news, transparency not only makes it easier for us (journalists) to collect the right information, but it can be more beneficial than trying to keep everything under wraps. What do you think?
And as for the question about national security the movie brings up, we’ll leave that to someone else to blog about.
1. Side note: Someone behind this movie seems to like the number 150.