Random Thoughts On The Coverage Of Another Massacre

Media coverage of the deadly massacre in a Parkland, Florida high school this week seemed to arrive at one very sobering conclusion -- that people in authority were in a position to know about, or to at least investigate, the shooter and then possibly make determinations about his potential for violence.

Apparently, no one did that. And he ended up carrying out this massacre. More than once during the TV news coverage on Wednesday and Thursday in the aftermath of the shooting, teens (among others) were seen being interviewed who, in their teen kind of a way, expressed their view that everyone in school knew this guy was off somehow. So if the kids knew, why didn't their teachers and administrators?

Some people reported the shooter to authorities -- most notably the FBI and also, possibly, local law enforcement. These stories were all over the place after the shooting.



TV news networks and newscasts had the shooter's social-media pages frozen and displayed on screens in no time flat (such as the one in the screen grab above taken from CNN Thursday afternoon). In this regard, journalists always seem to have more on the ball than law enforcement.

You ask yourself: If these things were so easy for desk assistants at CNN to find, why couldn't the FBI? Answer: Because the FBI probably didn't bother looking.

At times like these, journalists in all serious news media -- TV, newspapers, Web sites -- work hard getting all the information they can about individuals involved in these incidents and get it on TV very quickly.

Maybe the lesson here is that if you suspect that a classmate or next-door neighbor is unhinged, don't call law enforcement -- call a TV station or a network and ask to be connected to the newsroom.

Another striking feature of some of the coverage of this massacre was the nature of at least some of the interviews seen over the last few days with teens and at least one teacher who were in the school when the shooting occurred.

The thing that struck me most was the ease with which some of these people -- both grownups and teens -- were able to speak so matter-of-factly about this experience that they had just had hours earlier in which 17 people they knew had been shot to death in close proximity to them.

If my high school had been shot up like that while I was a student there, I suspect I would be in a state of shock bordering on catatonia for at least a few days, if not longer. But these people interviewed on TV seemed to have none of these symptoms.

Moreover, some were even smiling as if they were describing nothing more important than a football game or a movie they just saw.

This is not to be critical of them, since I have no idea what they are going through. Perhaps there is a phenomenon of delayed reaction to events like this that had not yet hit them.

However, I wondered if we now live in such a media-saturated, media-savvy society that ordinary people now know instinctually how to comport themselves on camera. Among other things, they seem to have learned how to “report” on terrible events they witnessed or experienced without emotion.

Of course, these few people seen on TV are probably atypical. For each of them who were on TV, there were probably many more people who would not have been capable of taking a reporter's questions about what they just went through.

As for the journalists themselves, particularly the ones who get tapped by the assignment desk to fly down to the location of the latest U.S. massacre, working as a reporter on what is commonly known as the national desk is now more like war reporting.

Nobody really talks about it, but PTSD is something journalists and their superiors should be looking out for.

7 comments about "Random Thoughts On The Coverage Of Another Massacre".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, February 16, 2018 at 12:31 p.m.

    Amen to that. If you see something, call the principal of every school in the area. Call the radio station and TV station. Put the photo on social media. The authorities are too caught up in protecting the rights of the likely-guilty. If something goes wrong anyway, it'll be the journalists' (partial) culpability.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, February 16, 2018 at 7:16 p.m.

    We have no idea how many more and more dangerous people the FBI have been investigated and averted. We have no idea how stretched out the FBI are and short of enough forces. We shouldn't know. They get thousands and thousands of people contacting them. Who is going to pay for all leads to be followed ? Blaming the FBI is a surface problem. 

  3. Fern Siegel from MediaPost, February 17, 2018 at 5 p.m.

    Yes, see something, say something.
    And also ask yourselves this: Why can any civilian get his hands on an automatic or semi-automatic rifle, used by the military in wartime?

    Cruz couldn't buy beer in Florida; but he could by an AR semi-automatic! Law enforcement has a tough job. They aren't "too caught up" in protecting the "likely-guilty." As any police chief will tell you, it's easier to do their jobs if criminals weren't so well armed.

  4. Ken Kurtz from creative license, February 18, 2018 at 7:53 a.m.

    Indeed, Adam. Because the FBI didn't bother looking...

    The FBI, of course, is too busy looking for Russians doing what Russians do, and have been doing for many decades (as far back as when they were not Russians, but citizens of the Soviet Union). Watch the brilliant show "The Americans" to understand that Russians have been in the business of disrupting our democracy, interfering with our processes, and overall "messing with us" forever. We, too, have been in the business of doing the same to them.

    Thank you, Mueller and the FBI, for wasting tens of millions, no, HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of hard earned taxpayer dollars to find 13 purported Russians that were "hacking" us once again. Posting fake news stories, and snippets on Facebook designed to mess with America. I thank you, and my school aged children thank you... NOT!

    Not one of those 13 Russians took a life, or devatated the lives of American family members like this sick pup in Florida did. Yet, people have been clamoring for this investigation into what Russians are willing to do to mess with us, now aided by technolgy that didn't exist when their efforts to mess with us were even more earnest back in the 60's and 70's, at great expense to us... not the least of which is the ability to do real investigative work that could easily help stop massacres of our children.

    We are so bass ackwards in this country in what we clamor for, it's embarassing. And we still clamor for "gun control" when it couldn't be clearer that in America, all governmental efforts to control, or prohibit things for which there exists great American demand throughout history have been proven only to increase access to those things via black market, make them cheaper, and more deadly.

    Yet here we are, again ignorantly clamoring for that which can only make matters worse.

  5. Ken Kurtz from creative license, February 18, 2018 at 8:06 a.m.

    I can hear it now...

    "Chief Muller. We've got intel on a 19 year old kid that's been slaughtering animals since he was 10 that everybody in his soon to be devastated community agrees is ready to massacre innocent children at school. He's got his automatic weapons, and according to all around him, it's "go time." Can I tail him?"

    "Dammit Agent Dumpkoff, I told you it is imerative that you follow up on that 19 year old female barrista at the coffee shop in Seattle that was posting nice things about Trump on Facebook starting about three months before the 2016 election!" 

    "I know, Chief. I just figured since there is zero evidence that Trump's campaign had anything to do with any of this Russian "meddling" that we know has been going on since the beginning of time, and that we know will continue occuring until the end of time, we might turn our attention toward something that can actually have positive impact, save some lives, make our organization look less like we have our heads up our asses."

    "Blasphemy, Agent Dumpkoff! Wait until the American people see the report I release on the "Russian 13" in the next couple of weeks. That kid in Florida is probabaly just blowing smoke..."

  6. Esther Dyson from EDventure, February 18, 2018 at 12:56 p.m.

    This is not an argument, but a genuine question I've been wondering about... The answer should help us drive solutions (though more guns is clearly not one!):

    How many false positives are there?  How many similar stories of trouble and crazy claims and bad behavior end without the mass shootout? 

    And whatever the proportion, how can we balance surveillance with better care, prevention, etc.?

  7. Ken Kurtz from creative license, February 19, 2018 at 7:37 a.m.

    You know, Esther, I'm not sure that more guns is "clearly not" a solution... especially if those guns are well placed, and purposeful.

    My brother's home was just a few miles from Sandy Hook School, and I visited that building not long after the horrific massacre that occurred there. It became clear to me, at that time, that a single armed guard at that building's single point of entry to witness the "walkup, with multiple weapons" that occurred by that sick and evil young man on that December morning would have changed EVERYTHING for those twenty innocent children, and those six teachers/administrators, and their families, and that community, and our nation. Hell, for our collective consciousness.

    That, too, was a situation where the sick, evil perpetrator's disease (as opposed to at-ease) was "out" in that community. Was known. 

    You qualify your question as "not an argument." But doesn't it act as an argument, regardless of intent, against certain things that need to happen to stop such evil. Isn't it, in its own innocuous way, an argument for political correctness (surely we cannot pry into people's lives, or proclivities... or subject the children to the "trauma" of armed guards in their schools). As if the trauma of being mowed down repeatedly is any better for the young 'uns...

    In this country, founded on a well armed citizenry that said "Hell no" to England, and meant it... guns are never going away. Attempts to "control" or prohibit them will invariably lead to a larger, and emboldened black market that will result in greater demand, and supply for EVEN MORE DANGEROUS weapons because, well, the criminals that will fill in the void will not be subjected to any laws, no way, no how. That's not the way criminals roll... intent as they are on large profits, the possibilities of which have been foisted upon them by an unsuspecting public that has not been paying attention, and think that new controls, or prohibitions will somehow cease a flow that CANNOT BE CEASED.

    Does it matter how many "false positives" might exist? Were we to identify, and have eyes on these truly troubled people (they are so frequently "known" within their communities), even if the majority wound up being "false positives", would we not as a society then be in a better position to help them?

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