By Gery L. Deer
Following the horrific shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, I’ve debated whether to weigh in as yet another part of the media’s relentless armchair quarterbacking of the tragedy. When I finally decided to write about it, I thought I’d take a slightly different approach. Even though I am a part of the machinery of the American press, I believe they deserve a scolding.
From the moment the news hit the wires that a gunman had opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary, the press has been relentless in its coverage. Every media outlet has surpassed the necessary “news” aspects of the story, as each tries to scoop the other with grotesque detail, or by displaying the most painful tale from surviving parents and children.
None of this is necessary. As Newtown tries to begin what is certain to be a long and difficult recovery from these events, it has become a media circus. Completely oblivious to how invasive and unwelcome they are, television news programs are broadcasting remotely from every open parking lot, thrusting microphones and cameras into the faces of grieving parents and neighbors.
If the pointless commentary by coffee mug wielding morning show hosts isn’t enough to make you sad for the state of our news agencies, factor in that both sides of the gun control debate are using this awful event as a pulpit for their ridiculous agendas. Other commentators suggested the shooting would distract the public from the Fiscal Cliff debate. Apparently, the ignorance of such an unprofessional media just continues to flow. Politicizing such unspeakable tragedy is reprehensible and, for lack of a stronger word, moronic in the highest degree.
Additionally, when the media gives exploiters a platform, they are just as guilty. While the American press has the responsibility to report, they also have an equal liability to know when enough is enough and let respect and good taste outweigh greed for ratings gold.
No matter how many guest experts are interviewed or what level of speculation goes into the motivations of the troubled man who pulled the trigger, or even how many cameras are shoved into the faces of survivors, we may never know the real reasons why these things happen. Endlessly debating the issue on morning talk shows will do nothing more than provide a better plan for the next unstable loner to do it more efficiently.
As the days and weeks pass, the frenzy will die down and Newtown residents will be left to deal with things on their own. Unfortunately, because of the nature of this event and our country’s twisted fascination with mass murder and other horrific crimes, the families will be faced with constant reminders in the media, books, online, everywhere. They will have something in common with those who lost loved ones in the Twin Towers on 9/11. They will forever be forced to relive that day over and over because of the public’s sick thirst for grotesque detail.
From my point of view, this will happen again; not because of guns or some madman’s quest for power but because our nation aggrandizes the killer and the event. It’s likely that there are more mentally ill people out there who see an act of deadly aggression as his or her only way to get noticed and distort that undying craving for attention into an internally-driven martyr complex.
Those who guard our schools, theatres and malls need to be on the alert, now more than ever. Thanks in no small part to the media’s continuous exposition, somewhere out there, sitting quietly in a dark room, the next shooter is deteriorating into madness and admiring the mayhem of this most recent horror.
Make no mistake – I do not blame the media for the acts of a madman. But I do blame them for their lack of good taste and journalistic judgment. We are lucky to have a free press, but there is a point where complete coverage becomes blatant commercialization and exploitation of tragedy.