Hoax reflects power of media influence

-The Review Editorial Board
As most of us know, on the morning of Dec. 6, Linfield experienced nearly seven hours of lockdown while the Oregon State Police Bomb Squad and an FBI bomb technician unit investigated eight suspicious packages found on campus.
The next day, senior Melissa Davaz turned herself in to the McMinnville Police Department and was charged with five counts of first-degree disorderly conduct and five counts of possession of a hoax destruction device.
As we reported in the stories that appeared on our Web site and this issue’s front page, Davaz said she was inspired to act after reading a story in the News-Register about a suspicious package found in the Oak Grove on Nov. 29. She said she wanted to see how the school would react if more than one package were found.
Aside from obvious statements that can be made about lapses in judgment, this instance brings up an important side effect that comes with reporting the news.
What started as a small story in a few regional publications became a larger incident that has been covered in major state and out-of-state publications, as well as several evening news programs.
In other words, an item that the news media were obligated to report caused more trouble by the mere fact that it was covered.
Not to get too technical, but if anything, Davaz’s actions demonstrate the basis of many sociological and communications
theory-related debates.
For one, it brings up the question of the media’s influence.
This is not to say that the media brainwash their users or that people who read newspapers or watch TV are directly affected by them. By no means were Davaz’s actions beyond her control. Rather, they provide an another example of the fact that people truly do what they will with the information the media present.
This potential influence makes it more imperative for news media to recognize their social responsibilities.
For some, the possible consequences of news coverage may inspire feelings of reluctance. Instead, this authority should inspire reporters to provide the most complete information possible so readers can fully understand a situation and its results.
Despite the inconveniences and expenses that the latest suspicious packages incident accrued, Davaz demonstrated integrity in admitting her actions to the police. Obviously, she will face significant repercussions because of this. But we would hope that, if anyone else were involved, they would do the same.
With any luck, coverage of the incident and those similar to it will bring about some more positive results.
-The Review Editorial Board

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