Weeding through the speculation, false info and lies in the Newtown tragedy
by Justin McGill, General Manager -- jmcgill@cadizrecord.com
Dec 19, 2012 | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
From the most basic point of view, there can be no debate on the horror of the events that took place Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. That morning, 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed 28 people, including himself after his mother, six school personnel and 20 children, most of them roughly the age of my 7-year-old son.

Those looking for reason will find themselves forever wanting. Any explanation for such a vile act would ring hollow even if Lanza left behind any kind of information on his plans, which he apparently didn’t.

Those looking for reactions will find them in a broad spectrum, and in many ways, I find that troubling and dangerous.

Many reports from news media in the immediate wake of the incident served little purpose than to increase the level of confusion over what exactly had happened. First, the identity of the shooter was in debate for some time because Lanza was carrying his brother’s identification.

Other reporting errors included linking Lanza’s mother to the school. At most, she was a part-time substitute, but later reports indicate that no one at the school knew who she was.

Such errors are the result of major news media outlets allowing themselves to get caught up in our current “tell me now” society.

Oddly enough, it appears entertainment writer Ken Tucker has said it best so far, indicating what TV news media should have done Friday and should be doing in general: “gather facts; report out the story; and assemble well-written, clear-eyed reportage. Then come back on the air with fact-filled coverage.”

This, rather than wall-to-wall coverage that featured, for several hours, nothing more than constantly repeating what few facts were known and then wildly speculating on unconfirmed reports – including that Lanza had killed his father, which turned out to be false – and forcing the opinions of “experts” down our throats.

Those “experts,” of course, were folks who had nothing to do with what was happening in Newtown that day and knew nothing of the individuals involved.

Perhaps most egregious of the cable news violations occurred thanks to the quick-thinking individuals who decided it would be a good idea to interview kids from the school within hours of the shootings. There’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed, and wherever that line is, interviewing traumatized kids in the immediate wake of such trauma is certainly on the “don’t do this” side.

As more information about Lanza began to trickle out, there was speculation about his mental health. It didn’t take long for a few news outlets to make an irresponsible link between the murders and the fact that Lanza had apparently been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism.

Take it from a parent who knows. Operating in the realm of autism is difficult enough without people thinking there is a direct link between autism and the potential for mass murder.

It’s a highly offensive line of thinking with no basis in fact, but that didn’t keep Fox News from bringing in a doctor – a doctor with no experience in autism, mind you – to speculate on how Lanza’s autism might have caused him to do what he did.

It’s hard to put tragedies like this in the proper context when so many people are so heartless and cavalier about the details.

Justin McGill is general manager of The Cadiz Record and can be reached by email at A HREF=mailto:jmcgill@cadizrecord.com>jmcgill@cadizrecord.com.
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