The Media’s Role in the Connecticut School Shooting (and Other Tragedies)

In the aftermath of the tragic shooting that happened this past Friday in the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT , people from all walks of life are sharing in the same feelings of shock, sorrow and anger. The question in everybody’s mind is “Why?” Something so tragic, it’s hard to even wrap your mind around the situation let alone find any possible explanation that could satisfy this torturing question. However, I’ve come across the closest thing to an answer that sums up this senseless tragedy and others like it. A post from Morgan Freeman has gone viral on Facebook and I think Mr. Freeman could not have been more insightful in his response:

“You want to know why. This may sound cynical, but here’s why.

It’s because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single *victim* of Columbine? Disturbed people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he’ll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.CNN’s article says that if the body count “holds up”, this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another. Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening. Fox News has plastered the killer’s face on all their reports for hours. Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer’s identity? None that I’ve seen yet. Because they don’t sell. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you’ve just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or a maternity ward next.

You can help by forgetting you ever read this man’s name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news.”

I agree with Mr. Freeman, the only way we can truly help is by remembering all the children and adults who were senselessly slaughtered and to start changing the way we look at the problem. Tragedies like the Connecticut school shooting should not become sensationalist news stories and idle workplace chatter but fortunately we have this beautiful thing called free choice. We can choose our actions, behavior and even our thoughts! Exercise it today when you flip on the TV, click on a news link or open that newspaper. And like one of my favorite quotes from Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
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