I tuned in to WBUR while driving home from the university on Friday, just to get some details about the situation in Newtown, CT. The reporter talked about his difficulty in getting close to any newsworthy scenes, of encountering a number of roadblocks, about a football field in Newtown being set up to accommodate the hordes of media arriving from Boston, Providence and New York City, of which Newtown is for some a bedroom community. I couldn’t help but think of the scene in Bowling for Columbine, describing the shooting of kindergartener Kayla Rolland, and of the media’s descent on Flint, MI (trigger warning—skip to about 32 seconds into the video for the Flint media circus).
This also reminded me that Katherine S. Newman also addressed media response in her book, Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings (New York, Basic Books: 2004). The book’s policy recommendations are divided into “policy options in the aftermath of a school shooting” and “prevention.” “Media: Lessons Learned” leads the aftermath options.
Media attention created the single largest headache for school authorities in the immediate aftermath of the shootings. Schools, sheriff’s departments, investigators, the courts, and the juvenile justice systems were all flooded with requests for information and interviews. Heath [KY] and Westside [AR] leaders responded to these requests in ways that should be emulated elsewhere: they assigned one person to organize media access and keep reporters at bay so that everyone else could focus on the students, the teachers, and the families. The bottom line for almost everyone in he schools was to restrain the media when their presence could interfere with the ability of the police and emergency personnel to do their jobs. It was not a policy the media took to with alacrity. (273)
Some friends have posted to Facebook that they refused to consume the media circus, or could no longer watch. In considering our response to the tragedy, can we think not only of what we can do, but from what we could refrain? Can we add our own restraint to the list of things to do? For yogis, in the parlance of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, could this be a yama and niyama? Can we refuse to participate in the media descent on Newtown and can we protect our own wellness by judicious consumption of news?
- Official: 27 killed, including 18 children, in US school shooting; one of worst in history (blogs.windsorstar.com)
- Parents explain Newtown massacre (wptv.com)
- How to talk to your kids about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting (coolmompicks.com)
- Newtown school victims all shot multiple times (usnews.nbcnews.com)
- Grim details emerge: Gunman used rifle, shot kids multiple times (jacksonville.com)
- On social media: Local reaction to Conn. school shooting (kansascity.com)
- Newtown school shooting story already being changed by the media to eliminate eyewitness reports of a second shooter (pakalertpress.com)