The town will not mark the anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, which occurred on Dec. 14, 2012, with a public remembrance, and it has asked the news media to stay away.
Newtown, Conn., on Wednesday released recordings of 911 calls made during last year’s mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, sparking a debate among publications over whether to publish the tapes. The state had tried to prevent release of the tapes, raising a bigger question about public records: should the government or the press decide what information the media can explore?
Media outlets showed restraint Wednesday regarding the release of 911 calls from inside Sandy Hook Elementary School during last year’s shooting rampage in Newtown, Conn. On television, national news organizations held off from broadcasting any excerpts. On local TV, Connecticut stations followed a similar pattern, and steered clear on their websites from posting the actual tapes but relying on stories that described some of what could be heard.
Management at the Meredith-owned CBS affiliate says the station will honor Newtown town leader’s request for media to stay away on Dec. 14, the anniversary of the tragic mass shooting. Instead, each day leading up to the 14th, the station will profile those who died in the shooting.
The Society of Professional Journalists has written a letter to Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy opposing the state’s efforts to pass legislation that would withhold public information about the Newtown school shootings.
Once the NAB had a TV Code that many stations adhered to, that promised viewers they’d be sensitive to what kind of fare they were bringing into their homes. We don’t need to code today. But a station or network making a pledge to be sensitive, backed up by some concrete proof that the pledge was something more than just another assignment for the PR department, might be a good idea.
Hollywood often scours its product output to appear sensitive when a tragic event dominates the news, and makes adjustments like adding disclaimers. To date, there’s been no evidence of a network pulling the plug entirely on a series because of violent content in the wake of Newtown. While gun control and problems with the mental health system have grabbed the most attention as ways to prevent further incidents, the level of violence in entertainment has been mentioned, too. There have been unconfirmed reports that gunman Adam Lanza was a video game devotee.
It might be time to at least begin the discussion of what role the media plays in horrific episodes like the Newtown massacre. It would be ridiculous to argue that the media not cover these stories, particularly one that is so destructive. The important questions to ask regarding the coverage are how, how much and for how long, and to what end other than for promotional and commercial purposes?
The shootings in Newtown, Conn., have prompted soul searching in the entertainment capital, where many of those who support gun control also make their livings selling violent images.
The Connecticut school shooting rampage compelled Hollywood to air disclaimers before violent television shows, swap some programs for others, cancel film openings and present somber specials on daytime TV shows that are usually more focused on entertainment.
The TV business has to step up and become part of what should be a national, multipronged effort to stop killings like that in Newtown, Conn. And TV doesn’t have to wait around for the definitive answers that may never come. TV can act now — It can stop airing so many shows that romanticize gun violence; it can quit scaring people with incessant stories of violent crime; and it can also lead the national debate on gun violence by mobilizing its journalists.
Like the rest of the news media, television outlets were faced with intense competitive pressures and an audience ravenous for details in an age when the best-available information was seldom as reliable as the networks’ high-tech delivery systems. Here was the normal gestation of an unfolding story. But with wall-to-wall cable coverage and second-by-second Twitter postings, the process of updating and correcting it was visible to every onlooker.