MEDIA CRAZY - guest post
by author Janet Gurtler
Media Crazy: In the book, Samantha is troubled with guilt and watching the news is not helping. Janet Gurtler explores the effect media can have on teens in tough situations.
In the book, Who I Kissed, when a boy dies from kissing a girl who ate peanut butter, it’s a sensational death and all forms of media cover the tragedy. A peanut butter kiss and Alex is gone. It sounds almost comical, except it’s not. It’s a story that the papers and the online community want to talk about. Samantha is the girl who kissed a boy and made him die. Not only does she have to deal with her own guilt and horror, she has to deal with the worlds. All she has to do is turn on the television to see highlights and updates about what happened.
Sam is compelled to watch and almost treats the news as her just punishment, watching and seeing snippets about the boy and his life and knowing she’s the cause of the person he’ll never become. When I wrote the book, I consulted some journalism friends to see if in a case like this whether or not the traditional forms of news coverage would name the girl who caused the death. The unanimous opinion was that, no, they wouldn’t because the death was accidental and a tragedy.
The flip side of this world we live in today though is social media. There aren’t any hard and fast rules in place. In Sam’s world her name and the story is very much public knowledge. The teens even use social media to bully Sam. She’s taunted on Facebook and because of her overwhelming guilt, she doesn’t even try to report it or fight back. Online bullying is a problem that is becoming larger and is often difficult to manage. Sam is hurt but unable to answer to or unwilling to report or respond to it except internally.
Our society is so inundated with information coming from so many different forms of media. It seems like we expect to know the details when there’s a tragedy like a teen’s accidental death. As a public we want or the juicy behind the scenes. We’re a society growing up with reality television where we know intimate details about stranger’s lives. Teens post pictures of themselves on-line or their parents post their pictures online for the whole world to see.
I’m sure television reporters and shows feel tremendous pressure to get something different to show a different angle of a story. The media seems much more intrusive and the public seems to support and expect it. In many ways, it’s an unhealthy sense of entitlement and a willingness to peer inside people’s windows and see things we’re not always entitled inside to see.
We want to know everything but what is the price for the people who have to deal not only with the tragedy but also with the consequences of being so exposed in the media?
Where are ethics, and social responsibilities going when our traditional media outlets are competing against media not governed or concerned with the same moralities?
Many teens today grow up with their lives completely connected to technology which usually includes being online. Media really does take on a much broader scope and sometimes it’s hard not to have the lines blurred between social media and news.
ABOUT THE BOOK!
Title: Who I Kissed
Author: Janet Gurtler
Release Date: October 1st, 2012
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
She never thought a kiss could kill…
Samantha didn’t mean to hurt anyone. She was just trying to fit in...and she wanted to make Zee a little jealous after he completely ditched her for a prettier girl. So she kissed Alex. And then he died—right in her arms.
Was she really the only person in the entire school who didn’t know about his peanut allergy? Or that eating a peanut butter sandwich and then kissing him would be deadly? Overnight Sam turns into the school pariah and a media sensation explodes. Consumed with guilt, abandoned by her friends, and in jeopardy of losing her swimming scholarship, she’ll have to find a way to forgive herself before anyone else will.