In Judeo-Christian tradition, three days are set aside for the dead to find their way to heaven. This is also a time for the families of the departed to grieve, but to grieve knowing that members of their family or community are guarding them against prying eyes or other grave-robbers in their moment of vulnerability while they deal with the tragedy that has befallen them. The impulse is to put on a brave face for the public, to try to keep it together, as if one should be able to shrug off such a horrible loss with nothing more than a mannerly tear or two.
Thanks to the 24-hour news cycle, and the generalized addiction America has to outrage, this period of grief has been streamlined to about three minutes.
Earlier today, a terrible tragedy befell a town in Connecticut. A young man, for reasons unknown, stormed into an elementary school in Newtown and viciously murdered 26 people – twenty of those small children, none more than ten. This is a monstrous act, and one that we may never be able to understand. I want to make clear that my thoughts and prayers go out to all the families touched by this horrible act – whether their children lost there lives, or merely their innocence.
Within hours of the shooting, I received emails from two different political organizations asking for my help in using the tragedy to push through laws favoring strong gun control – and donations were more than welcome. I also received email from an organization opposing gun control, asking for similar assistance. I have no reason to believe this is the last I will hear of these requests, but the fact that they were sent out before the dead had even all been positively identified – that their deaths were being politicized even before their bodies had gone fully cold – is also a monstrous, ghoulish act. Less than six hours after the shootings, Mark Kelly, who is familiar with tragedy, being the husband to former Congresswoman and shooting victim Gabby Giffords, issued a statement offering condolences to the families who lost children, and in the same breath calling for gun control hearings, saying “This can no longer wait.”
Forgive me for disagreeing with you, Mr. Kelly, but I think it could have waited at least a day. I think it could have waited until the parents of the children that were lost had time to draw a breath that didn’t immediately catch in their throat. I think it could have waited until the children who survived finished crying themselves to sleep.
I think it could have waited until the families had a little time to mourn.
We’ve become addicted to sensationalism – we’re obsessed with more, with bigger, with better. This is the culture that produces interviews like WTNH’s Erin Logan interviewing a young girl who survived unharmed, asking her what it was like – and when the answer wasn’t as sensational as she wanted, as we have come to expect, prodded her further and asking if everyone was “…crying, scared, wanting their parents to come get them?”
Pardon the vulgarity, but what the hell do YOU think? Is it really good journalism to poke at a victim clearly in emotional shock, and demand to know just HOW freaked out everyone was? Do you really need to push a small child into making a horrible, terrible tragedy worse by recounting the screams and cries of terrified children? Is it truly newsworthy that children in danger will be upset?
There’s a difference between reporting the news, and manufacturing the news – and inappropriate questions like that plainly cross the line. It’s obvious that the children were terrified – what next, shall we ask for direct quotes of the screams? Recordings of the crying?
When does it cross the line? As far as I can see, that’s long past. Let them react on their own schedule, Ms. Logan. Don’t pry the gory details out of a child. Don’t pick at the scab before it’s even started to form.