Media coverage of the Sandy Hook tragedy

By Jay Krieger

I’m not going to discuss the person responsible for this vicious and baseless crime. I’m also not going to discuss whether gun control laws should be changed or not. The media has already discussed both ad nauseam. In a moment when, as a nation, we should come together and mourn for the senseless loss of human life, some would rather debate.
There is a time and place for debate. Debate is good. It keeps our country relevant and current with the ways we conduct ourselves. Though minutes, hours, and even days after an elementary school is attacked by a man that took advantage of the innocence of children, is not a time to debate policy. It is a time when we should come together and support those that have suffered unthinkable loss.
The idea that we now must question whether our children will be safe at the one place that they should feel the safest is a frightening concept that must be addressed. And those eager politicians will get their time to debate. But, for the moment, please respect the memory of those lost before you represent their deaths in a pie chart or the various bar graphs that you’ll utilize when it comes to debating gun control or security measures. After a mass tragedy, if we aren’t able to take a minute and console those that have lost a loved one, then we, as a nation, have lost our humanity.
I do want to address the way the media felt it appropriate to cover this massacre, or rather their ineptitude to cover it in a mindful or professional manner.
First, in a moment of pure chaos and horror, more than one news syndicate deemed it an appropriate time to interview crying and confused children in the parking lot of the school they’d just fled from. I understand the importance of covering all aspects of a story. I understand speaking with multiple sources that were involved in an incident, no matter how horrific. But the lack of any sort of sensitivity, towards children no less, is completely baffling and sickening. Granted, the children’s parents should have told the interviewers “Hey guys, this isn’t the time or the place.” But this world certainly isn’t short on poor parenting.
Second, when a mass shooting occurs, or any crime that can be easily copied, the media needs to not glorify these events. Glorifying in the sense that, for the next 24 hours, it’s impossible not to see the perpetrator’s name, face, and details about how they went about committing the crime. When an event like this is glorified by the news, it instills in those that are suicidal or mentally unstable that, “Hey, look at all this attention the shooter is getting. Hey, this could be a way for people to remember me, right?”
The barrage of coverage leads to a mentality that a person can be immortalized by deciding to take the lives of others, and it seems to be the way media has decided to continue covering these events as they have, dating all the way back to Columbine Massacre.
Third, news outlets decided that turning to social media was a valid way to fact-check a person’s identity. The shooter was incorrectly identified initially, as the media turned to Facebook and twitter pages of the supposed suspect, plastering his face and details on television and websites. It turned out they had falsely identified the suspect’s brother as the shooter. Is this the way we fact check sources and information now? I may be an amateur journalist, but if I interview a source for a story, I’m sure as hell not fact checking my source from a person’s social media account. That’s the equivalent of taking someone’s E-harmony account at face value. Just because we live in a time where information is a few seconds away, we lose sight of the fact that that information found on the “interwebz” may not be completely factual.
Despite my qualms with the media’s coverage of this tragedy, it’s clear that our country, in due time, needs to address and explore both sides of the gun control debate. But, that time isn’t right this second. Does it need to be addressed within the next month or two, absolutely.
The changing of law needs to be decided and debated, for lack of a better expression, once tides have settled. It’s important to approach any issue as important as this one, with level heads as to ensure that no aspect of proposed bill or legislation is over looked. While the nature of the Sandy Hook shooting will forever be remembered as one of pure evil, the initial shock of the shooting is still very apparent amongst our country.
This may be a pivotal moment in our countries history, as clearly, with the increased number of shootings across the country this year alone, something needs to be changed. And in the end, shouldn’t we be trying to better ourselves as a nation?