American media jumps the gun on Norwegian gunman
by Justin McGill, General Manager -- jmcgill@cadizrecord.com
Jul 27, 2011 | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
On Friday, 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik carried out the most devastating terrorist attack in the history of his native Norway, killing several with a bomb and later many more while shooting up a summer camp.

Horrible, despicable acts. Absolutely no debate about that.

He’s admitted to them and will be served justice. No doubt about that.

I can’t add anything else to the horror of the situation, so I won’t even try.

I will, however, address the American media’s initial reporting of the incidents.

Several outlets, including CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, presented knee-jerk reactions that attempted to pin the acts on Muslim extremists. When it became clear that the culprit was Norwegian, one commentator went so far as to suggest that it could have been a Muslim in a very convincing disguise.

You know, like in Mission: Impossible.

This is just another in a long list of clear examples that our supposed media leaders have lost touch with reality and, more importantly, journalism ethics. With little-to-no information to go on, these “journalists” America is supposed to trust made blind assumptions based on the fact that Muslim extremists have committed such acts before.

Guess what? So have American extremists.

Had it been one off-kilter commentator casting blame, it might not have been such a big deal. The fact that so many reached the same conclusion makes this a real issue.

Think about it. What are the chances that they’d all come to essentially the exact same conclusion? Maybe I don’t want to know the real answer to that, but I like to believe that the chances are slim.

That would seem to indicate that one media outlet took the initial leap and then the rest, like sheep, followed.

Maybe their mothers never approached them with the “If your friends jumped off a bridge ...” scenario.

My initial reaction to their initial reaction was disgust with our industry – them calling themselves unbiased journalists makes it more difficult for me to call myself the same.

Then, I remembered myself. I’m not in New York. I’m not covering world news. I don’t mean to diminish the importance of the people and events in our little community, but I’m also not in the habit of blaming Muslim extremists for crimes that happen here.

I do my best to make this a solid community newspaper, one that informs and enlightens its readers on what’s happening here. So long as that remains my goal, I don’t believe I’ll run the risk of making a fool of myself.

News outlets, in the course of presenting facts, should not presume anything. Report what’s happening, not what you THINK is happening.

If you’ve got an opinion, save it for later, not while a madman is still in the process of killing people.

Justin McGill is general manager of The Cadiz Record and can be reached by email at jmcgill@cadizrecord.com.
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