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Media Got 12 Key 'Facts' Wrong on School Shooting—and Other Failures | The Nation

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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

Media, politics and culture.

Media Got 12 Key 'Facts' Wrong on School Shooting—and Other Failures

I suppose the question of how the media have covered the Newtown massacre ranks down the list of pressing issues raised by the tragedy, at least for the moment, but as the memorials and funerals pass, deeper discussion should ensue.

What has gotten the lion’s share of complaints: the insensitive interviews with school kids asked to re-live the horror, plus the usual over-the-top “grief porn.” Hopefully we will soon see more of a focus on how the media have miscovered, or not covered, the issues of gun violence and gun rights, and mental health treatment, in past years.

And we’ll watch for pundits and analysts pushing Obama to talk tougher, and then go beyond talking the talk to walking the walk. Here’s a new Roger Cohen column at The New York Times that pushes hard. Even Joe Scarborough claims he has changed his views.

For now, before this aspect fades, my list of twelve key facts or reports that many or most in the media got wrong in the first twenty-four hours or more of coverage of the tragedy:

1) Gunman’s rifle was not left in car but found in school.
2) Rifle did virtually all or all of the killing damage in the school, not handguns.
3) Shooter forced way into school, was not “buzzed” in by anyone.
4) Four weapons found in school, not two.
5) Mother did not teach at school at all, was not “teacher’s aide” or “substitute.”
6) Reported “altercation” between Adam Lanza and staffers at school disputed by police.
7) Brother’s ID was not found on Adam Lanza.
8) Nearly all or all kids killed were first-graders, not in kindergarten.
9) Got name of shooter wrong
10) Some claimed brother was killed in Hoboken
11) Some claimed father was killed in Hoboken
12) Mother not killed in kindergarten classroom but at home

In the days ahead, media need to highlight and tie together the massive number of shootings every day across the the country—not during crimes but in accidents, often involving children. This is key to bring attention to the claims of “responsible” gun owners who say, gee, they always handle weapons (sometimes, dozens of them) safely. Except for the occasional, fatal, mishap.

Just a sampling from the past few days:

Boy, 11, in Portland finds (unlicensed) gun in father’s house (where dad likes to “work on his rifles”). Shoots four rounds off in backyard with younger sister there and dad in house, who does nothing. Sister gets bloodied somehow. Kid then takes gun and uses in a carjacking—outside a church—with an accomplice, who is age 7. Full report here.

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Boy, 12, in Missouri shot dead by friend playing with grandfather’s gun.

Earlier this week, boy in Houston, age 4, finds dad’s gun, shoots himself in head. Boy in Minneapolis, 4, shoots brother, age 2. Great quote: “Very clearly, a 4-year-old should never have access to a firearm, loaded or unloaded,” said Sgt. William Palmer, a spokesman for the Minneapolis Police Department.

I could go on.

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