Colorado shootings: Media already pouring gasoline on the fire
Peace journalism doesn’t just address issues of peace and war. Instead, PJ should be used as a way to evaluate and moderate our coverage of any conflict or violent incident, such as the shootings early this morning in Colorado. As media coverage of this event unfolds, as advocates of peace journalism, let us scrutinize the coverage for:
1. Sensational images: Unedited footage? Needlessly bloody scenes? Images taken out of context?
2. Sensational reporting: Inflammatory language (massacre, slaughter, blood bath) used? Victimizing language (defenseless, pathetic, helpless) used?
3. Summary judgment: Is the arrested suspect tried, convicted, and executed by the press?
4. Political grandstanding: Do media allow politicians to use their media platforms to score political points using this incident?
5. Historical hysteria: Do media dredge up past incidents (particularly Columbine, since it was also in Colorado) to dramatize and sensationalize their coverage of the theater shooting?
Sadly, media reports about the shooting this morning illustrate that the advice I'm giving above amounts to not much more than wishful thinking. This is a Tweet I just saw from CBS news. @CBSNews Colorado #TheaterShooting eyewitness: "I see people walking out with blood on them" WATCH: http://cbsn/.... No apparent shyness about highlighting the blood from CBS. A second Tweet from NBC is no better. NBC News @NBCNews VIDEO: Alleged Colorado #theatershooting suspect's mom: "You have the right person". No need for a trial--he's already been convicted by the media.
Finally, a report by ABC news this morning wastes no time cheapening this tragedy by moving it into the political arena. (See http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire/181843/abc-news-speculates-theater-shooter-jim-holmes-linked-to-tea-party/ ).
The point is this: We as media must cover this shooting. The question is, how? Do we cover it in such a way that our reports make a bad situation even worse? Does our coverage rub salt in the wounds of already grieving families and communities? I believe that media, while telling the story, must consider the consequences of its reporting, and strive to not exacerbate this truly tragic situation.