Texas Tribune staff are determined to aggressively cover the horrific shooting at a school this week in Uvalde, Texas, editor in chief said. Sewell Chan, even though they are “exhausted that we have to deal with this at all, exhausted that we have to deal with this again, and have resigned themselves to participating in what sometimes seems like a numb, meaningless ritual.” In newsrooms across America, a country where mass shootings have become a horrific facet of everyday life, the process has sadly become routine. “We all know the playbook now. We all know how it unfolds,” Chan added. “The sadness, the announcement, the outrage. A semblance of public debate. And then generally no action. And that’s actually been the pattern, for at least two decades, going back to Columbine.”
Indeed, as NPR national correspondent Sarah McCammon put it“I was in high school when Columbine happened. I had kindergarten during Sandy Hook. I have an elementary school student now. And I’ve covered so many.” With Tuesday’s murder of at least 19 children and two teachers at a Texas elementary school following a mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket — and amid decades of recurring tragedies in Newtown, Parkland and elsewhere — journalists and academics question question whether the traditional reporting model adequately portrays the carnage, and even consider whether showing more graphic images would force the public and political leaders to fully face the sickening reality of the US gun violence epidemic.
“I couldn’t have imagined this years ago, but it’s time to show – with the consent of a surviving parent – what a slaughtered 7-year-old looks like,” tweeted David Boardman, the former longtime editor-in-chief of The Seattle Times who now runs Temple University’s journalism school. “Perhaps only then will we find the courage for more than thoughts and prayers.” Nancy Barnes, NPR’s head of news agreed: “We can’t purge these murders. That in itself is an editorial decision,” she says. replied†
“Historically, any photograph of a corpse under any circumstance is something that we are very careful and careful about,” Boardman, who was involved in making such editorial decisions for decades, told me Wednesday. “But there are moments in history where I think reality – the visual reality of this kind of carnage – may be the only way to really move citizens and politicians into the action that is clearly needed.” He cited the “big difference” that Emmett Till’s body graphics published in jet magazine made for the civil rights movement; or more recently, Darnella Fraziercell phone video of George Floyd’s murder.
“It’s now clear that after Sandy Hook, after Buffalo, after dozens of these incidents, simply describing the grief, describing the massacre, showing pictures of these precious children… won’t be enough.” Therefore, Boardman would “advance that a major publication — be it print, broadcast, or digital — seek out some of these families, in a reasonable amount of time, not today. Or tomorrow. But maybe next week. And get their permission, ” he said. “Obviously, they say these kids can’t be identified visually and only by DNA samples. So I think the American people need to see this.”
This social media conversation also plays out on cable news, with CNNs Jake Tapper asking the question in the opening minutes of his Wednesday show. “You know, there’s footage of these shootings that law enforcement officers and, quite frankly, us in the news media, that we don’t share with you. Because they’re so horrific,” the Lead Anchor said. “But maybe we should. Perhaps the shock to the system would prompt our leaders to figure out how to get society to stop these troubled men — and they are almost always men — from getting these weapons used to slaughter our children.”
“I understand the sentiment and generally support it, as I fail to understand what else could change the minds of dastardly senators trapped in the slavery of the NRA, unable to tolerate even modest measures to end the carnage. to stop,” professor of journalism at Columbia University Bill Grueskin told me when I asked him about Boardman’s idea, which he shared on Twitter. The problem, he said, is that “you can’t get permission from the victim, only from the family members. Maybe it’s time to add a checkoff box behind our driver’s licenses, next to the organ donation line, so someone’s corpse can be published.” to demonstrate the horrors of America’s infatuation with assault weapons.”
The kind of graphic imagery some are arguing for is theoretical at this point, as it’s unclear what photos exist of the crime scene in Uvalde that would be accessible to the media. And there are a number of reasons why such photos do not exist.” t published, including the protection of family privacy and journalistic traditions.