Anglo Adventure

Travel with a sense of humor

Dear Media, We Need to Talk

6 Comments

Video on how media should cover a mass murder

I am not the person to write about What Happened last Friday. I am a travel blogger and when I am not traveling, I am trying to make people laugh. Expect what follows to be slightly off topic and serious.  One travel’s greatest gifts is the ability to look at your own country through a long lens – see its beauty, as well as its flaws.

The USA gets a lot right. And a lot wrong.

I will not use the location or the keywords associated with What Happened because it is not my intention to use it to bolster my blog readership and I am absolutely disgusted by anyone who would do so.

I would like to tell reporters who shoddily covered What Happened exactly What I think of them.

Let me just say: I love the news. Previously, I worked as a journalist at several small newspapers. I think most journalists are honorable, heroic, worthy of medals for risking their lives to cover wars and conflicts in far off places while the rest of the world reads the stories from safe at home.

I think the world needs more good journalists to build bridges across the sky, to places and people we’d never know otherwise. I am a strong proponent of freedom of speech. I am vehemently anti-censorship.

HOWEVER, coverage of What Happened has been irresponsible and dangerous on multiple levels.

Here are the things that I would never like to see happen in a news report again:

24/7 coverage of a tragedy. Repeating the same loop, on every station, again and again. That does nothing but put fear and sadness in our hearts. I understand the magnitude of what’s happened and I care deeply. I do not need it shoved into every cranny of my life.

How do we explain it to our kids? A good question – but the news probably got to it before a lot of parents had the chance.

I went to a pizza place yesterday and there it was, blaring on a big screen while kids somberly picked at their slices only a few feet away. Change the channel. Oh, wait it’s on 5,7,9…

Repeating the name of the shooter. Same picture that looked as if it had been taken years ago. Same name, repeated over and over again. Experts say this could cause copycat attacks because in the twisted mind, its exalting the shooter, making him a celebrity. We saw this last time with the Aurora shooting. And we were warned.

Getting the name of the shooter wrong in initial reports. Wow, what a blunder. And very dangerous. But this is only the beginning – the story took several turns before the actual facts were found out. The five “W”s must not be taught in journalism 101 anymore.

They messed up the name of the shooter, what he did, where he shot his mother, and the number of victims. Like a game of telephone, the story started one way and ended up completely different. That’s not ok.

Also, like a jealous ex, the media Facebook-stalked the wrong shooter’s friend’s list.

It doesn’t matter if you break a story first. Just break it right.

Interviewing children. I have seen this happen from inside the scrum when I reported on Prince William and Kate’s visit to Quebec. A sweet little girl handed the Duchess a bouquet of daffodils and right after, the media swarmed her.

Admittedly, I ran up to her too (it gets intense and if you’re not first, you’re last), but stopped when I saw reporters arguing over who got to interview the girl. And then I saw the mom crouched over her child in full-protective mode with a bewildered look on her face.

This was right after what was likely, the best moment of the little one’s life. And it still shocked me.

I can’t imagine the soulless reporters clamoring over each other to get interviews with kids who just escaped this tragedy. How a parent can even think clearly enough to give consent in a moment like that?

Clicks, comments, links.  I have seen bloggers, marketers, and journalists slyly try to use certain words in their articles to get comments and links. Specifically: I am ____ Mom. She lost all credibility in the first few words because it seems like an attempt to tie herself to this tragedy using her own son. Maybe I am a cynic to think that way. It seems awfully suspicious.

I would like to see our Nation give victims and their families not only moments of silence, but moments of privacy.  Let them grieve off-camera.

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Author: angloadventure

Professional travel writer and near-professional wanderer. Recently lived in Seattle and Quebec City. Traveled across country three times in a car. Can find the best pizza in any city. Published in Fodor's travel guides, Delta Sky, Where magazine, Viator and others.

6 thoughts on “Dear Media, We Need to Talk

  1. I agree about not interviewing the children. And I am almost positive that if I was the mother of one of those children I would not be able to talk. I wouldn’t want to be interviewed. I wouldn’t want to be on TV. I would just want to be left alone for sure.

    • Right. I think the journalists need to revisit the Golden Rule. Treat others the way you want to be treated. I know there’s a lot of pressure to break stories and a lot of competition with other news stations, but I would be the news station or reporter who stood out by reporting the facts in a very responsible way. I just saw an interview with the shooter’s barber, who said he wished he’d killed him.

      • Wow…. I don’t even know what to say to that. It’s really crazy how the actual story was SO different than the original. You’re right though – I understand that people want to be the first with the story and blah blah but I feel like if you’re not making sure that what you’re saying is right to begin with – I might not watch that station anymore. The first story I heard was that he was 24, he killed his brother in Hoboken and then drove 80 miles to the school, he killed his mom AT the school, in her kindergarten classroom and no one in the class survived. I heard that his dad was dead too and that they had escorted his younger brother out of the woods…. but apparently he’s 20, I don’t know who the dead body in Hoboken is, his mom was not killed at the school, he didn’t kill a class of Kindergarteners (it was first grade) and I don’t know who the boy in the woods was and his did is not dead… I mean, there are HUGE differences there….

      • Yeah, it’s definitely an example of how the media has changed. They got A LOT wrong. I hope they’re held accountable and learn from their mistakes. I hope the fact that they screwed up big time isn’t buried in the other discussions that obviously need to take place.

  2. The thing that annoyed me the most about the coverage (which I turned off after about 10 minutes) was the media’s declaration that “this will go down as the worst school shooting in U.S. history.” Oh yeah? I’m sure there are many other twisted minds up to the challenge to make the media eat its words. 😦

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