As media has expanded to include newer mediums and more platforms, we have become more ravenous for news with a soaring thrill factor. In 1994, over 20 helicopters followed the LAPD's
titillating chase of OJ Simpson in his iconic white Ford Bronco. The cavalcade garnered over 95 million viewers nationwide, even luring spectators to stand at freeway overpasses to
wait for the procession to pass under. The celebrity chase ended peacefully, but gave rise to the enthralling appeal of tracking police pursuits as they
unfold. In the years that followed, chases that drew media attention were often over an hour long, featured havoc and bloodshed, sometimes involved violent
accidents, and on occasion ended in a harrowing suicide.
Earlier this year, when the LAPD hounded Christopher Dorner, we witnessed how manhunts have trumped the notorious police car chase. The gripping standoff
resulted in record breaking ratings surges for local LA
TV stations, and even cable networks raked in millions of views in their coverage of the confrontation. The Dorner manhunt however, was far more grim and
gruesome than the sensational, action-packed car chase sequences that characterized the '90s and early 2000s, and the fact that viewers remained glued to
their TV and computer screens indicates a devolution in our obsession with real life crime drama. News networks feed viewers pulsing images of violence as
if it were grief pornography, providing
lifeblood to the human impulse that thrives off that stimulation. The showdown between the LAPD and Dorner brimmed with elements of movie magic intrigue-
obscenities made it on-air along with sounds of gunfire, the scene ending with Dorner trapped inside a cabin engulfed in flames.
But the Dorner manhunt doesn't hold a candle to the ferocious pursuit of the Tsarnaev brothers, the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing. The immersive
live coverage followed the progress from the moment the first surveillance images were released, to the fiery shootout and hurling of explosives that
caused the death of a police officer and the first suspect and the lockdown of an entire metropolis, and ultimately to the victory in the nabbing of a bloody
second suspect. In a post 9/11 world, with suspects who happen to be Muslim, there couldn't have been a more
evocative scene or a more perfect criminal. News stations, who had been tripping all over themselves to stay abreast of the situation, schlepped in huge
for their live coverage. Social media was ablaze with live updates serving up information (and at times, misinformation) about the hunt to those
frantically searching for it. In the wake of a horrific tragedy where innocent civilians died and dozens were brutally and senselessly injured, the eyes of
a nation were transfixed on a riveting, grimy, unnervingly real, manhunt.