The events on Friday in Newtown, Connecticut are horrifying and almost beyond comprehension. As a parent and a human being, I am sickened that there seems to be an epidemic  of violence in our society.

I get that this is 2012. We (the public) want to know everything about everything — and we want this information now. With the rapid growth of technology and easy access to so many media sources (including Web sites, blogs, RSS feeds, etc.), this is now a reality.

And, as a professional marketer and educator (and as an individual person), I strongly support free speech — no matter how upsetting this may be at times.

But, in the case of the horrific events at a K to 4th grade school in Newtown, Connecticut, several moral/ethical questions do emerge. Here is my personal take on them. Please comment on what you think.

  1. More than ever, today’s media want to scoop the competition and be the first to break the story. As a result, misinformation flows freely and rapidly during the early stages of a tragedy such as this one. What does this mean? Initial reports are often misleading and may be outright false; yet, they are propagated to a worldwide audience. The first information I received about the Newtown shootings was on the radio. At that time, the reporter said that the shooter’s mother was a teacher at the school — and that the shooter killed her and her full class of students in the room where she was teaching. This turned out to be totally false.
  2. Was it really necessary to show the video clips of groups of young children being led away from the school by adults? After witnessing events that will be indelibly etched in their hearts and minds forever, did the media need to then remove all sense of privacy from these kids? Wasn’t this exploitation to help drive the story? Wouldn’t the images be as powerful if the children’s faces were blurred?
  3. It was reported over and over that Newtown, Connecticut is a small, tight-knit community in a quiet middle-class area. So, the question here is this: With the community reeling from the tragedy, how wasn’t the media frenzy too much? Couldn’t there have been a couple of Associated Press camera crews and a couple of pool reporters? From the video clips, it looked like a town under siege. Yes, all the media had the right to be there; but, should they have been?
  4. Initially, it was decided — out of both respect and good manners — to conceal the identities of the children, even after positive IDs were made of each victim. So, I was surprised and saddened, when I went to the Web site of the NY Times last night and saw that the banner headline was a list of the names and ages of every victim. The list is still there as I write this post. It was jarring and unsettling to see that all the children were 6 and 7 years old — and to read that each child was shot multiple times. So again, yes, the media had the right to disseminate the information — but should it? These children died violently; and even in death, 6 and 7 year olds have no privacy.
  5. Finally, the media coverage of the shooter has been, and will continue, to be massive. But this story is not about him. It is about the victims. Our morbid curiosity about the shooter should be within the context of the havoc he inflicted and the lives he ruined. He will not be named here.

Bless the children — and the teachers and administrators who also perished trying to protect them.

Fade to black.


5 Replies to “A Sad Reflection on the Media Coverage of the Newtown, Connecticut Tragedy”

  1. Reporting on tragedies like this is a tricky ethical minefield for journalists, especially when there are children involved. The public has a right to know the whole story, although the complexity of this incident warrants much more discretion when fact-finding. I was surprised that the victims’ names were released so soon and that so much unconfirmed information was reported. I guarantee, however, that if investigators had been more coy there would have been accusations of withholding information. This quick and dirty reporting style is what the public expects. We no longer read about stories after the fact, we watch them unfold in real time.

    As an aside, I think there does need to be a greater level of public understanding as to the shooter’s motive. Not to give him publicity, but to help the public see that those with mental health issues deserve help early and often.

  2. According to the report, I think government should pay more attention on public safety before the tragic happen, just like upgrade the security level of the airport after 911.

  3. I find most of the media coverage about this horrific event absolutely appalling. Besides the insensitivity that you mentioned before, the fact that the media misreported numerous facts, ranging from the the media initially naming the scumbag shooters brother as the assassin, to jumping the gun and saying that his mother was a teacher of the school, it sickens me that so many media sources would report things that had yet to be confirmed for the sake of breaking the news first. None of this changes what happened, and I feel the media has a responsibility to protect free speech and confirm the BS reports that it initially reported as facts. I usually consider CNN as a reliable source when it comes to breaking news, but this latest tragedy has made me look at the organization more as a headline hungry National Enquirer type of organization and will undoubtedly deter me from looking at them as a reliable news source after they exploited and screwed up so many supposed facts in this unspeakable tragedy.

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