Sunday, March 8, 2009

Shuttle Challenger Explodes

The space Shuttle Challenger explosion is an important news story for the 20th century and is something people had never experienced in the news before its time. A contemporary example of something like this is the loss of the space shuttle Columbia. At the time news had shifted from being objective during the 1960s to being more critical, however, I fail to see much skepticism of the government agencies involved. The two sources which I used research the Shuttle Challenger explosion where the New York Times and the Houston Chronicle.
In the New York Times the writer cites at least seven different sources on the space shuttle disaster. Almost all of the sources are government related. For example there is information from NASA, the Coast Guard, the Defense Department, and the President, as well as a source close to the New Hampshire teacher Christa McAuliffe. There seems to be little criticism of the government in either article however both make obvious statement that something went terribly wrong and it could be implied that it was the fault of the space agency NASA. For example both articles note that the space agency had delayed the launch for minor damages that occurred earlier. Also, there were the icing problems with some of the equipment early the morning of the launch. Lastly, both papers note problems with some of the fire equipment on board the shuttle. The New York Times article includes a statement from officials saying they do not consider any of the above to be the cause of the accident.
The framing of the story is also similar to contemporary stories. It basically lays out the facts in the order of what the journalist thought were the most important to the least important. There are facts about the explosion, what happened when the shuttle exploded, then facts about the woman who was going to be the first teacher and civilian in space followed by more facts about the shuttle and possible speculation about what may have caused the accident.
It is important to note that the articles on this subject place no blame or responsibility on any agency and none is claimed. It is treated very plainly as a disaster and the type of reporting that was seen in the 1960’s is different from what we see here. If anything I would say that both articles particularly the one from the New York Times is closer to the objective style we see earlier in the 20th century. Perhaps there is more of a balance because this is not a very politically charged story like those seen in the Vietnam War era. Other stories at the time may have been less objective and more critical, and stories that circulated in the weeks following the incident may have contained more judgment on the part of the professional journalist who felt it was there job to comment on the possibility that there were mistakes made.

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