OUR VIEW: Don’t blame news media for Friday’s shootingsIn what appears to be a hoax, someone claiming to be Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman blamed the media for Friday’s tragic school shooting. Friday night, the social media site Facebook lit up after a long scroll attributed to Freeman was posted online. In the comments, the writer said the reason for the latest tragedy is “because of the way the media reports it.”
By: Editorial board, The Daily Republic
In what appears to be a hoax, someone claiming to be Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman blamed the media for Friday’s tragic school shooting.
Friday night, the social media site Facebook lit up after a long scroll attributed to Freeman was posted online. In the comments, the writer said the reason for the latest tragedy is “because of the way the media reports it.”
Now, The Daily Republic is just a small-town newspaper, but that comment stings and we spent the weekend fuming about it. And although Freeman now says he didn’t write the comments, the faux Facebook post has ignited national conversation about the media’s role in these terrible events.
What about other industries?
How about Hollywood? People die in Freeman’s movies, yet few are blaming motion pictures for what happened Friday in Connecticut.
One of our favorite movies is “Unforgiven,” in which Freeman plays a former outlaw who travels a great distance to kill some cowboys and collect a reward. Although we don’t believe Freeman’s character actually did any killing, many died in that movie, and all by gunfire. So is Hollywood to blame?
What about the television industry? You can’t turn on the TV anymore without being subjected to shows in which dozens of people are killed. Did the TV industry play a role in the Connecticut tragedy?
What about video games? We all know what that industry has become.
And how about the nation’s gun laws? Do they play a role?
The media reports the news. Some media outlets do tend to add drama, and some do get caught in various distasteful moments as they report about these painful deaths.
But anyone who blames the news media for the Connecticut killings is just short-sighted and ill-informed.
Unlike the often glorified killings in movies, on TV and in video games, which are sometimes included simply to shock or entertain, the focus on killings in news reports almost always serves many valuable purposes.
News coverage of murders informs taxpayers about the actions of the police investigators and prosecutors who are paid with tax dollars. It also helps hold investigators and prosecutors accountable to the citizens they serve. Media scrutiny tells the people whether justice is being carried out, and if it’s not, media coverage seeks answers.
News coverage focuses attention on problems and facilitates the search for answers. Name a societal ill from America’s history, and you can bet that the attention it received from the media helped expose it and stimulate the quest for solutions. Hopefully, the same will someday be said about mass shootings such as the one that occurred last week in Connecticut.
So, don’t blame the messenger. Blame the criminal. Then use the news media to inform yourself for participation in the important public debate about how such crimes can be minimized in the future.