Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Connecticut Tragedy and News Coverage

First, while it seems that Morgan Freeman didn't actually say that quote that everyone is sharing on Facebook, I very much agree with the sentiment.  Here is the quote:
You want to know why. This may sound cynical, but here's why

It's because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. [name removed] and [name removed] are household names, but do you know the name of a single *victim* of Columbine? Disturbed people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he'll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody

CNN's article says that if the body count "holds up", this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another. Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening. Fox News has plastered the killer's face on all their reports for hours. Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer's identity? None that I've seen yet. Because they don't sell. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you've just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or a maternity ward next.

You can help by forgetting you ever read this man's name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news.
I have heard that local news outlets and the police don't release articles about people who jump of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to prevent people from doing it just to get their names in the paper.  After the Batman theater shooting, some news outlets refused to print the shooters name or photos on their front page for the first day, but then he was plastered everywhere immediately after that.  I can understand sharing some of the information in the case of public safety (for instance, if the suspect is still at large) but if the suspect is already in custody or dead, don't publish their name.  Don't publish their photo.  Write articles that are about the victims, the act, and the motive, but not the person who carried out the event in the case of these "lone gunman" style attacks.  I even went so far as to remove the two names from the quote above.

Eventually their names and photo may have to be published so that law enforcement can reach out to the public to gather more information but even then, it does not need to be front page news.  Especially if they were killed during the act, there is very little to be gained by allowing them to live on in infamy.  If they are standing trial, publish those details once the trial is underway (which can also help prevent some bias on the part of the jury).  Also, stop using these types of incidents to try and start a conversation about gun control.  It is impossible to have a rational discussion about gun control in America during normal times, but that is infinitely worse immediately after incidents such as this have occurred.  I will write up another blog post about my gun control thoughts another time.  In the mean time, I will close with this.  First, I was relieved to learn that my College roommate's daughter was in a different elementary school 20 minutes away and was safe.  Second, I am going to publish the list of victims below. (Source USAToday)
Charlotte Bacon (2/22/06), 6 years old, female
Daniel Barden (9/25/05), 7 years old, male
Rachel Davino (7/17/83), Staff member, 29 years old, female
Olivia Engel (7/18/06), 6 years old, female
Josephine Gay (12/11/05), 7 years old, female
Ana M. Marquez-Greene (4/4/06), 6 years old, female
Dylan Hockley (3/8/06), 6 years old, male
Dawn Hochsprung (6/28/65), Principal, 47 years old, female
Madeleine F. Hsu (7/10/06), 6 years old, female
Catherine V. Hubbard (6/8/06), 6 years old, female
Chase Kowalski (10/31/05), 7 years old, male
Nancy Lanza, 52 years old, female (mother of shooter)
Jesse Lewis (6/30/06), 6 years old, male
James Mattioli (03/22/06), 6 years old, male
Grace McDonnell (11/4/05), 7 years old, female
Anne Marie Murphy (7/25/60), Staff member, 52 years old, female
Emilie Parker (05/12/06), 6 years old, female
Jack Pinto (05/05/06), 6 years old, male
Noah Pozner (11/20/06), 6 years old, male
Caroline Previdi (9/07/06), 6 years old, female
Jessica Rekos (5/10/06), 6 years old, female
Avielle Richman (11/17/06) 6 years old, female
Lauren Rousseau (June 1982), Staff member, 30 years old, female
Mary Sherlach (2/11/56), Staff member, 56 years old, female
Victoria Soto (11/04/85), Staff member, 27 years old, female
Benjamin Wheeler (09/12/06), 6 years old, male
Allison N. Wyatt (07/03/06), 6 years old, female

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