The Media and Disasters: Pan Am 103
On a bitter December night in 1988, Pan Am Flight 103, the Maid of the Seas, flying from Frankfurt to New York, exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people. Among the victims were citizens from over 21 countries, 11 villagers, and 35 Syracuse University students returning home from studying abroad. The bombing set in motion a drama of epic proportions, played out on television screens and newspaper pages around the world. Scenes from the tragedy etched themselves on the public consciousness: a screaming mother at Kennedy Airport, collapsing upon learning of the fate of her child; flames engulfing the modest homes of Lockerbie; weeping Syracuse University students in mourning at a basketball game; the mangled cockpit of the jumbo jet resting in an idyllic Scottish meadow. Behind these scenes, another drama unfolded. Hundreds of journalists swarmed to the traumatized village. In New York, scores of reporters, photographers, and cameramen rushed to the airport to record the reactions of bereaved family members. All over the country, people watched the names of the dead scrolling across their televisions, many praying for those presumed to be on board. The disaster also engulfed institutions, many unprepared to mediate between the public's need for information and the need for privacy by those most affected. In engrossing detail, The Media and Disasters chronicles the story behind the headlines, illustrating how the media and the people it encountered in pursuit of the news experienced and affected the journalistic process. The book addresses, in narrative fashion, the universal themes common to most tragedies, emphasizing the increasingly powerful role of the media and its agents in representing such catastrophes to the world.
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December 21 1988
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