AirTalk for December 18, 2012

How should the media cover horrific news events like the Connecticut shooting?

Connecticut Community Copes With Aftermath Of Elementary School Mass Shooting

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Connecticut Chief Medical Examiner H. Wayne Carver II talks to the media and answers questions about the elementary school shooting during a press conference at Treadwell Memorial Park on December 15, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut.

 In the days since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut that took the lives of 20 children and 6 adults, media outlets have given the story nearly wall-to-wall coverage. However, not all media coverage is created equal. Early on, there were mistakes in the reports which misidentified the shooter and incorrectly painted his mother as a teacher at the elementary school. This is not uncharacteristic of early coverage in the wake of a story of this magnitude.

The media made mistakes beyond just factual information, there were also issues taken with matters of taste. For instance, even KPCC itself was suspect. While some listeners praised the station’s reporting for its passion and sensitivity, it was also harshly criticized by some who felt carrying the CNN feed of children being interviewed constituted a “pornography of suffering.” When it comes to stories like this, some people believe they shouldn’t be covered at all, as all they do is glorify the killers. But other swaths of the public want and need to know what happened for their own peace of mind.

So how should the media best deal with this? What would you like to see more or less of in your news coverage? What crosses the line? What doesn’t go far enough?

Guests:

Craig Curtis, program director and managing editor of news programs, KPCC

David Folkenflik, NPR's media correspondent based in New York City


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