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Hey media, how about you take a breath?

January 10, 2011
news trucks

Image by the queen of subtle via Flickr

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve probably heard about the mass shooting in Tuscon, Arizona that left six people dead and another 14 wounded, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

It’s a tragic story.

And it’s a story that is still unfolding. So how about we let it.

Within hours of the shooting political punditry was in full blow. Democrats blaming Sarah Palin for her target list. Republicans blaming democrats for making a still bleeding tragedy political. News channel talking-heads bloviating at full bellow.

The media, short on answers but long on available airtime, filling their news holes with as much information as they could scrape together, much of it inaccurate. In the first hour of the tragedy I had received several tweets from various media members claiming Rep. Giffords had died. Thankfully, several news outlets had apologies today – including ABC and NPR.

I know it’s easy to pick on the media and political pundits for constantly getting things wrong, but at some point, don’t these people need to be held accountable? Is it really better to fill the news hole rather than get the story right the first time.

Isn’t it just as important to back away from the story and let it breathe before posting or broadcasting.

Currently, broadband wires are choked with news organizations attempting to find out more about the shooter responsible for the death and injury. They found his YouTube posts. Good. Found his MySpace page. Good. Put clips from both on the air. Good. Found neighbors and schoolmates that knew him and could shed a little light on the shooter’s past. Good. Job well done. Now stop broadcasting till you get some actual news.

What you don’t need to do is bring in talking heads not affiliated with the case directly to discuss what could have made the shooter unload in a grocery store. No one knows those reasons but the shooter and the investigators. You’re allowed to wait for some more hard information. I promise, we’ll still be interested in the story when you have real news to break.

You know what we don’t need to hear? How Sarah Palin’s political target list is influencing lone gunmen across the country. Why? Because we don’t know if Sarah Palin’s political target list is influencing lone gunmen across the county.

Here’s what we do know. Rep. Giffords is a target on Sarah Palin’s political target list. Rep. Giffords was shot. Nineteen people not on Sarah Palin’s political target list were also shot.

Right now, to report that one influenced the other is a disservice to news watchers and the political discourse.

All we “know” regarding the gunman’s intentions is that he was a troubled young man, who appears to have failed at most things in his young life. News media, you found that out, good job. That’s exactly what you’re supposed to do. Should you find a quote where he mentions being inspired by Palin, we’ll want to know that too. But until then, how about we just stick with what is quantifiable.

I don’t know what created this newest lone gunman. I doubt it was a political lightening rod from Alaska or the politically supercharged state of Arizona. It’s easy to blame the etherial world of verbosity.

If history is any guide, this newest assassin is probably the creation of those most closest to him and the people who looked away from a budding problem.

We can blame the media, pundits and hate speak all we want, but the first line of defense resides in those of us who see the problem first hand. We can engage and try to stop a tragedy long before it takes place or we can sit, look away, hope for someone else to intervene and then blame everyone else for not doing something.

I assure you, mentally troubled, cold-blooded killers are not a new phenomena. They just get better press now.

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