NOTE: This page technically is called a blog. This post is technically my first “blog.” I usually post factual articles, but this has some opinion and analysis. A blog is a place for some opinion and here is mine about my experience regarding the Newtown, Conn. shooting tragedy.
A day that I really wished that I was an intern or an employee of a media organization was Dec. 14, 2012. I was doing homework late the night before, so I slept in that morning until 11:30 a.m. I awoke to see breaking news emails, text messages, and twitter notifications. I began to look into the information about a possible shooting at a local Connecticut elementary school via social media, as I turned on WTNH on the television. When I began to hear more details about the scope of this possible tragedy, I wondered, ?This is a huge story, is it on CNN?? Once I saw the cable networks at picked up the story, I realized this was not just like any other news story I read. Connecticut does not get national media attention very often, but I could tell that this situation already looked bad enough that our state may be remembered for this for a long time.
I woke up my father and told him something tragic and possibly historic was happening only 45 minutes away from our home. Not only did I absorb the news through the ?two screen? method, I watched on tv, phone, iPad and laptop. Details began streaming in just a few facts at a time, but I was so interested. I could not turn away; I flipped through every national and local channel looking to see how each reporter covered it. I began sharing articles and things I was learning on my social media profiles. I sat in front of screens almost the entire day, and learned from the coverage. I had plans to go somewhere that night, but I cancelled them to continue seeing the shocking story unfold. This huge world news event was happening in a town I drive through regularly, and I was just overwhelmed. I could not just sit at home. There is just a feeling I get as a journalist that did not allow me to just watch this news story that was so close to my home?I had to go there. So I did. I realized I was just another unwelcomed ?guest? in the sad town of Newtown after this tragedy, but I needed to be there on the ground to see what was going on myself. I spent two days walking around the freezing cold, grieving town observing and talking to people. I submitted photos and videos to local and national news sites. Although I was not currently working or interning at a media organization, it didn?t stop me from going to find the story.
The world is different now then when the Virginia Tech massacre occurred; there are thousands of new news sources for viewers?everyone in one?s social networks. I realize this has pushed tv and web journalists to broadcast any new information as soon as they get it; so they can be ?first.? On the day of the Sandy Hook shooting, I heard so many false and conflicting facts broadcast by credible local and national media outlets. The police did not confirm very much of anything immediately after the shooting?it was an active crime scene, so that is understandable?but news networks got information somewhere and shared it with the world. If I could improve anything about the shooting coverage, it would be to tell the networks to wait until they have official confirmation before sharing information.
I agree that there is a want for fast information, but that does not outweigh telling the truth by any means. The purpose of the news media is to tell people what is happening in the world. When a reporter on live television says 30 students died in this elementary school, that is false, and they are actually doing the opposite of the news? sole purpose?they lied. If I were to grade news coverage like a school assignment, the outlet who reports the news correctly first gets 100 percent, the outlet who reports the news correctly fourth gets 90 percent, but the outlet who reports one line of false information first gets a 0 percent.? No matter if there was one false fact in 12 hours of coverage, that outlet has totally failed. False information is totally unacceptable. My suggestion would be to report what you know to be true according to official sources (and cite the source of the information every time, including on lower third graphics), and hold information that is not confirmed yet. The shooter was originally named incorrectly, Adam Lanza?s mother was reported to be a teacher, and she was reportedly in the school. These false statements were inexcusable by all who reported them.