How (Not) To Share A Massacre

It’s been more than a year since I published a column titled “How (Not) To Cover A Massacre” in the aftermath of the June 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando. It was one of several columns I’ve written about the inextricable connection between such acts and media, including one that followed the Sandy Hook shooting in December 2012.

Since those events took place, the capacity of media to serve as an accelerant has only grown -- especially social media, which is why I modified the headline on today’s column to “share” instead of “cover” a massacre.

I first learned about last night’s Las Vegas massacre when I woke up, checked my phone and saw it on Instagram, of all places, though there were several push notifications from newspapers I subscribe to as well.

Naturally, the first thing I did was turn on the television to see how cable news outlets were covering the event. Nor surprisingly, they’ve been covering it the way they cover every human drama that plays out in real time: a continuous loop of replayed footage of the worst parts of it, over and over and over again.

I don’t know what the solution is. I don’t expect anyone to put any genies back in any bottles, but I think it’s possible for news outlets to demonstrate a modicum of restraint. As media critic Jeff Jarvis tweeted this morning, “Please stop looping the gunfire.”

It wouldn’t be the first time television and other news outlets demonstrated restraint. It’s remarkable to me how they’ve done that vis a vis 9/11 footage. I was struck by this a few weeks ago, when Esquire published its “Falling Man” article showing photos of people falling from the Twin Towers, including one particularly famous one. I had never seen them before, but I think 16 years later it wasn’t inappropriate to revisit it in a historical context.

But the continuous looping of a massacre in real time on 24/7 cable news outlets and social media feeds in the immediate aftermath cannot be a good thing for society. And in some way -- big or small -- it has to be a factor in motivating future ones.

4 comments about "How (Not) To Share A Massacre".
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  1. Michael Margolies from Michael Margolies Photography & Design, October 2, 2017 at 1:06 p.m.

    And stop congratulating each other. Every time there is something like this, even before all the details are in they trot out some local elected law enforcement person surrounded by a bunch of bored, tired and distracted officials from other agencies.

    They then proceed to thank each other. Hey, its not even over yet! They don't even have all the facts out, they have yet to release the name, people are still dying and you guys are patting eachother on the backs for showing up and doing your jobs?

    This morning the one that bugged me the most was after the Sheriff had thanked all the usual guys, he thanks some County official for bringing refreshments! Really, thats whats most important right now when people are wondering if their family members are safe is to thank the guy who called someone to drop of some coffee and donuts?

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, October 2, 2017 at 1:17 p.m.

    More, bigger, better mentality. What is next ?

  3. Chuck Lantz from, network replied, October 2, 2017 at 3:45 p.m.

    That would be the same Sheriff who said that the "shooter was dead, currently."

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, October 3, 2017 at 7:23 p.m.

    PS: Later today on the local news, they were interviewing a woman who they said had a connection because she worked at that casino years ago. And she talked to them as if she knew something. Deafening.

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