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Story Archives: Irresponsible reporting of a tragic event
|Irresponsible reporting of a tragic event|
It was unsettling to say the least when we learned Saturday morning that U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 other people were shot by a deranged young man outside a grocery store in Tucson, Ariz.
Giffords was at a Safeway to conduct some sort of a town hall meeting so her constituents could pass along their concerns.
The get-together with constituents turned tragic when Jared Lee Loughner, 22, showed up at the Safeway armed with a .9 mm semiautomatic handgun and proceeded to discharge it freely. He passed a federal background check when he bought the weapon in November 2010. Loughner had an extended clip in his possession, too, when he arrived at the Safeway.
Apparently Loughner intended to do harm, and he did. He did so by shooting Giffords in the back of her head, not to mention the other 18 people who were struck by bullets fired by Loughner. Giffords remains in intensive care in a Tucson hospital following surgery in which doctors removed part of her skull to prevent her brain from swelling. Her status is day-to-day.
As asinine as it sounds, Giffords was lucky. She survived. Thus far, that is.
The same cannot be said for Chief U.S. District Court Judge John M. Roll, a 9-year-old little girl and four others, including a member of Giffords' congressional staff. They all died as a result of Loughner's senseless act of violence.
Roll simply was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He dropped by the Safeway to say hello to a friend, Giffords, after attending Mass. A devout Catholic, Roll attended Mass daily. The 9-year-old attended Giffords' town hall affair with a neighbor, who invited the young lady because she was interested in government.
We don't know much about Loughner. According to his former classmates, he was a pot-smoker who had some crazy ideas about currency and civil liberties. He posted videos of himself Online. Disturbing videos -- one of them showed him burning an American flag. Loughner also attended a community college for a spell, but because of his erratic behavior, administrators at the college informed Loughner's parents that their son wasn't welcome to return to the school until he underwent a psychological exam and was determined to be of sound mind.
Shortly after word spread that Giffords had been shot, the responses from most elected officials transcended party politics. President Obama, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, Arizona Sen. John McCain, House Speaker John Boehner and others issued statements expressing concern for the victims of Loughner's attack, and they condemned his actions.
There was an exception.
That was Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik of Pima County, Arizona where Tucson is located. He rambled about at a news conference following the incident at the Safeway, blaming the shootings on the visceral tone that permeates political discussion in America today. Later in an interview with ABC News, Dupnik partially blamed conservative talk radio show host Rush Limbaugh for the tragedy that occurred in Arizona over the weekend.
Without a doubt, Dupnik is a fool.
Sadly, though, Dupnik's remarks set the tone for the news coverage of the shootings in Tucson. One by one from the Associated Press to The New York Times to The Washington Post and the archaic news divisions at the three major television networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) published or broadcast reports depicting Loughner as a nut who was influenced by Sarah Palin and conservatives in the media who have exercised their First Amendment rights in criticizing government and elected officials who serve in it at all levels.
In media circles, we describe that as fabricating news content.
Of course, Dupnik's reaction to the shootings got traction in the media because Giffords is a Democrat who was targeted for defeat in the 2010 election cycle over her vote for health care reform. Palin, the former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate, was involved in the movement to unseat Giffords, who was re-elected last fall to a third term in the U.S. House. So much for Palin's influence with Arizona voters.
Lost in the shuffle or conveniently overlooked by the media was Roll's background. He was appointed to the federal bench in 1991 by President George H. W. Bush. Obviously, Roll was a Republican.
Once it became clear that the media's efforts to politicize the shootings as a by-product of political debate, talk turned to gun control. More specific, questions were raised over how and why a deranged young man like Loughner could walk into a sporting goods establishment and buy a powerful handgun with ease.
In a telling commentary about the incident in Tucson, The Washington Post opined that guns kill people. The Post editorial writer got it wrong. Guns don't kill people people kill people.
Still, it remains that a member of the Congress was shot in broad daylight doing her job in a public setting. Eighteen other people were shot, too. Six of them died, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old child.
The word tragic can't describe it.
Sam Hanna, Jr.
is publisher of The Ouachita Citizen
, and he serves in an editorial/management capacity with The Concordia Sentinel
and The Franklin Sun
, three newspapers owned and operated by the Hanna family. Hanna can be reached by calling (318) 805-8158 or by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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