News Hole

photo by Raffy Abasolo
(Cover photo by Brian Hayes

Strange and terrible things happen all over the world every day, of course, as well as wonderful things, things merely prosaically sad, irresistibly trivial, or urgently relevant to our lives. People suffer and die in far-away places and in neighborhoods where we live. Legislation is debated and passed; businesses change hands, people lose their jobs; the fates of criminals and innocents alike are determined in court; professional athletes triumph or flounder or change teams; celebrities suffer breakdowns or engage in appalling behavior. And amid all the clamor and the calamity there are always, unfolding all around us, poignant, miniature dramas and acts of quiet integrity and heroism.

All of this boils down to news of one sort or another, and, unless we find ourselves directly affected by an event, that news comes to us secondhand, as stories. We depend on the media to assemble those stories, and to pass them along so that we can remain informed about the world beyond our immediate lives. But what happens when the stories don’t get told?

Few people who live in the Twin Cities were unaffected by the stories and images that emerged in the wake of the rush-hour collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge into the Mississippi River. It was one of those huge news events that instantly became a galvanizing communal drama. The destruction of a bridge, after all, resonates on any number of levels; it’s a catastrophe that can be easily transformed into an all-purpose metaphor—emotional, logistical, structural, infrastructural—for the perils of life in a modern metropolis.

The news media in the Twin Cities rightfully devoted all its resources to telling that story, and did a terrific job of quickly pulling together the myriad pieces and angles of a confusing and rapidly developing tragedy. There’s not much to criticize in how the bridge collapse was covered locally, but it did raise a question: what happens to the rest of the news when a major story breaks, particularly in your own backyard? We’ll push our metaphor a bit further: If the news media is increasingly our bridge to the world beyond our doors, what happens when that bridge gets swept away by a huge and legitimate breaking story?

We’ll admit that we got as wrapped up in the bridge story as everybody else, and only after we’d had a chance to finally pull ourselves away from our televisions or delve deeper into the back pages of the newspapers did we get around to wondering what else had been going on—around the world, elsewhere in the country, and here in Minnesota—that day and in the days following the disaster. What became of the stories that would have been front-page news—or at the very least received prominent play—on any other ordinary day in the Twin Cities?

In an effort to give you back that day, and the few that followed, we spent some time digging for the news that got buried or jettisoned in the aftermath of the bridge collapse. What we found was that, horrifying and eye-opening as some of those stories are, it was, sadly, a pretty typical news week.

Just not, sadly, here. —BZ


PAGE 6: SCRAMBLE for bridge coverage
PAGE 7: FALLOUT from the bridge collapse
PAGE 8: CHATTER — or conspiracy theories

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