BY CHARLES MEMMINGER – In November I wrote a piece that was published in Hawaii Reporter.com and republished across the country about how shameful our national news media have become. That editorial focused on the obvious political leaning of supposedly objective coverage of the news.
In that piece, I argued that members of this country’s “mainstream media” have betrayed their duty. The formerly heralded members of the “Fourth Estate” had turned into a pack of sycophants in little cheerleading outfits; they had become lapdogs, instead of watchdogs.
The shocking murders of teachers and children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, by an insane person has shown another and more insidious side of our shameful media.
The national television media’s rush to win viewer ratings was a sick and sad façade of news coverage.
The major national television networks committed a myriad of sins in this coverage, not the least of which were to wrongly publicly name the killer (they said it was his brother) and e-mailing families of victims to get their take on the atrocity.
The television news reporters showed no concern about the psychological state of the parents the traumatized and horrified the children who managed to escape the carnage.
A large part of the national politically motivated media immediately seized on this sad incident to promote their agenda of gun control, even before the parents of the little children victims had been allowed to see their kids.
That’s just sick. To the media, any horrible event is just a reason to further their political position on any subject. They should be ashamed.
Here’s the thing … I’ve worked written for four newspapers over 35 years. And all of them had a policy regarding suicides. We didn’t cover suicides in the paper. Period. The reasoning was that if you make a big deal out of suicides, other troubled people would “copycat” and kill themselves to get news coverage. It was a hard and fast rule. But that rule has gone by the wayside.
Today, the saying in news that “if it bleeds, it leads” sadly has grown to include suicides and massacres. What happened in Sandy Hook was a planned suicide by a crazy person looking to get as much media coverage as he could. He knew that by shooting children and teachers, the press would not be able to stop itself from exploiting the incident to the hilt. He was right.
I’m not suggesting government intervention to control the media. I’m asking that our shameful media get a grip. Please. What happened in Sandy Hook was a dreadful suicide and massacre. It may have been spurred by the mass movie theatre shooting in Aurora, Colorado, which the media ran with for weeks, or the Arizona shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords or the Oregon mall shooting – these incidents feed on each other when the media plays them up.
The public has a right to know the news … but the public doesn’t need to know every single sick, psychotic and sad thing a crazy person does in real time through the media’s zeal to make a buck for the network.
How do you report an incident like Sandy Hook? You look into the camera and say: “A horrible tragedy has happened. A crazed gunman has killed teachers and children. And then he killed himself. Out of respect for the victims’ families and in order not to encourage copycats who may attempt to recreate this tragedy for the media attention, we will show no video of the crime scene or identify the killer. We believe our viewers will understand and appreciate why we are taking these precautions.”
Predictably, most of the mainstream news media pundits are using the Newton horror to push their gun control platform. And the incident does bring up issues about gun control that should be discussed. But please, could we just let the poor little victims reach room temperature first? Our shameful media constantly reaches new lows.
I know there are smart newsmen and newswomen out there who see what’s going on. Legendary Watergate reporter Bob Woodward seems to be becoming increasingly embarrassed at his industry. He was one of the reasons I got into journalism back in 1976 in college. He has to be ashamed at what’s he’s seeing now. I know that I am.