Media and Shootings

Yesterday, Johanna Justin-Jinich was shot dead by a gunman at Wesleyan University. I've been following the news online and getting additional information from my wife who has been talking with students there.

This morning, I found Rick Green's blog post out the Hartford Courant site, Wesleyan U. shooting tragedy: old media still dominates

While I appreciate the collection of links that he gathered, I found the tone a bit offensive and wrote the following comment:

I must admit, I find the headline and focus of this story a bit offensive.

Yesterday, I got a phone call from my wife about the shooting. She let me know that none of our friends had been hurt. Last night, I went to hear Tom Swan, Ned Lamont and Jim Dean talk about health care issues in our state.

We had a moment of silence.

This morning, my wife called again. Students have been advised to stay indoors and faculty have been warned not to come to campus. While there is probably no safe way for the students to get off the campus at this point, she offered our house as a place to get away from the horror when it is safe if they need it.

Johanna Justin-Jinich is dead. Spring Fling has been canceled. My "new media" response has been to send a message on Twitter and Facebook offering prayers for the family and friends of Johanna Justin-Jinich and all the students at Wesleyan University while the gunman is still loose.

Friends have joined in, commenting about the tragedy.

Yes, I am subdued. So are my friends and apparently the Wesleyan Argus.

While I appreciate you providing a good set of links to various news sources about the shooting, it seems like being subdued is much more responsible than crowing about the old media dominating.

It may be headlines like this that drive more and more people away from the old media to new media.

I cannot help but wonder how this relates to the SPJ's Code of Ethics where it talks about showing compassion "for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage" and "being sensitive ... of those affected by tragedy or grief."

News gathering is about much more than just providing information quicker than someone else, it is about providing context. Can we get context from the Courant?

Update 1:

Several other people shared their thoughts on Rick's post, and Rick responded

My interest was where to turn for the most information -- isn't that the point here? ... The media's job is to get the information out... I think it's relevant to ask who is up to the task, don't you?

I have several thoughts on this. Just because the traditional news organizations are pushing out lots of information, that doesn't necessarily mean that it is the place to turn to get information. Most of my information is coming primarily from friends online, and only supplemented by the traditional media.

Yet there is another aspect here. While part of the job of the media is to get information out, another very important part is providing context. Some would suggest that beyond providing context, an important part of the journalistic process includes engaging the community in the news.

I think this is an area that Mr. Green is missing. I responded to his comment saying,

I think a very interesting question to ask in a few weeks may well be something to the effect:

What can we learn about the evolving media landscape in terms of how various traditional and new media outlets responded to the May 6th shooting at Wesleyan University?

When we are not in the midst of new information coming out, the killer still being on the loose, and the grieving process just beginning, we may be able to learn interesting things about how we can all work together to improve journalism in Connecticut.

Yet framing the question, in the middle of the unfolding events asking "who is up to the task" does little useful for the future of journalism in our state, and if anything leads me to believe that at least some in traditional media, while they may have the resources to gather and disseminate information, are really not the ones that are up to the task.

So, let's continue this discussion, but let's try to do it in a more sensitive manner when we all have more of a chance to process the information and the context.

Update 2:
I received one email noting that the only thing offensive was the title. When I went back, I found that Mr. Green has dropped what had been the third paragraph. To see the earlier version, check here.

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