CNN’s Navy Yard shooting coverage

Basing my search for what to post about this week off of the spot-on Daily Show clip we saw in class last Thursday, here’s a CNN story, updated last Tuesday, actually calledNavy Yard shooting: What we know and don’t know.”

It begins,

“The one question we all desperately want answered may have gone to the grave with Aaron Alexis: Why?

Why did he park at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday, walk into Building 197, perch himself on an overlook above the atrium and open fire? The bullets that rained down killed 12 people and wounded eight others.


But that’s not the only missing puzzle piece. Investigators are painstakingly trying to piece together the motive, the means and the method.”

Never mind the speculative nature of the article, or the fact that trying to answer the question “why?” is actually the same exact thing as “trying to piece together a motive.”

The sensationalized nature of CNN’s scene-setting and description of raining bullets is deeply problematic because, as is the case in the coverage of most mass shootings, the gunman is the sole focus of the entire story. What he looks like, what weapons he used, why he did it. Curiosity about what would make someone do such a thing is what gets the most voyeuristic attention from viewers, and is what 24/7 news channels like CNN hone in on.

Every time a mass shooting like this occurs, day after day, you’ll see the same, usually deranged-looking photograph of the perpetrator on the news, held on the screen for comfortably long periods of time. I’m thinking specifically of the Newtown shooting, and the same wacky picture of Adam Lanza shown again and again.

Are we meant to think that the shooter’s crazy? Or that, taking it a step further, crazy people look a certain way? If we are, is the media trying to send out the message that “we should have known”?

And, unless the victims are “unique,” such as high-profile Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in Arizona in 2011, or the Newtown children (who can forget the montage of their faces on the news?), very little is said about them. “12 shot, 18 wounded.” Just numbers.

This way of covering shootings is ineffective because, as the CNN article shows, there are so many questions about the shooters that we’ll never know. But what we do know about is the status of the victims: who they were, why they were there, etc.

“Reporters” for news sources like CNN should focus on the victims as they try to figure out more about the shooters, since, as we’ve seen, a lot of misinformation gets thrown around when they try to rush and be the first to identify or analyze the shooter.

What do you guys think? Should there be more of a focus on the victims of these shootings? How can the media improve their coverage of these events?


About Hannah

I've always wanted one of these.
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