Baltimore Sun's Zurawik Notes Media Malfeasance at the Outset of Newtown Shooting

Suffice it to say the media coverage of the recent tragedy was an abject failure. Perhaps the most egregious example was how CNN initially reported that Ryan Lanza, brother of the real shooter Adam Lanza, was the culprit eliciting screenshots and information about his Facebook account that was disseminated on the Internet  – and on the airwaves.  David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun wrote on December 14 that:

it appear[ed] some law enforcement officials might have incorrectly identified the gunman as Ryan Lanza. One account says Adam Lanza had Ryan's ID on him when police found his body. That helps explain how it initially might have happened, but it's not an excuse for so many in the media having it so wrong for so long [last] Friday. 

Of course for many liberals in the media, getting the facts right is not as important as quickly exploiting a tragedy to further a liberal agenda. Take Alex Wagner of MSNBC, who confessed last year that she'd love to eliminate the Second Amendment from the Constitution:

Bill Maher, HBO: "Let's ask Alex. What would you change in the Constitution?"

Alex Wagner, Huffington Post: "Well, I'm going to be pilloried for this. I think get rid of the second Amendment, the right to bear arms. I just think in the grand scheme of the rights that we have; the right of assembly, free speech, I mean, owning a gun does not, it does not tally on the same level as those other Constitutional rights. And being more discreet about who gets to have a firearm and right to kill with a firearm, I think is something that would be in our national interest to revisit that.

Fast forward to Friday, when Wagner jumped on the mass murder in Newtown to offer that “ One would hope that there will be some political capital to reform the way in which we handle gun and gun violence in this country.”

It's that sort of crass politicization of tragedy and disregard for the journalistic ethics of fairness, balance, and objective just-the-facts reporting that is a casualty of the deliberate moves by MSNBC to be a left-wing agitprop machine disguised as a news channel, the Sun TV critic complained:

 that's what MSNBC does: opinionates about matters like ‘political capital’ on the air. What else would you expect of someone like Wagner on such a channel? Responsible journalism? Fact checking? Some original reporting to try and independently confirm what law officials were saying?”

Forget it. We don't do that anymore at channels like MSNBC. You have to hire a staff of real reporters for that, and it is not as cost effective as hiring a few showboat hosts who say outrageously partisan stuff on-air.


Of course, the "outrageously partisan" epidemic is not contained to MSNBC. As my colleague Matt Hadro reported today, CNN’s Don Lemon offered his viewers the hyperbolic policy prescription to get “guns, bullets, and automatic weapons [which are guns] off the streets.”  More egregiously, Lemon trivialized the issue of mental illness and how we as a society may be deficient in identifying and institutionalizing people with mental illness who are an imminent danger to themselves and others:

We need to get guns and bullets and automatic weapons off the streets. They should only be available to police officers and to hunt al-Qaeda and the Taliban and not hunt elementary school children," an emotional Lemon appealed.

Yeah – yes, we need to address mental health, but mental health in this particular issue, let's not get it twisted, is a secondary issue. If someone who has a mental issue did not have access to guns that should only be available in war zones, we would not be dealing with this," he responded to CNN contributor Will Cain's argument that the mental health of the shooter was the paramount problem.

[…]

It doesn't matter if gun violence is down, 26 children – 20 children are dead here, and six adults are dead, and the mother of a person who's not mentally up – who's mentally challenged in some way is – she's dead. So to say that gun violence is down and we need to talk about mental health – yes, mental health is a secondary issue. We need to get guns and bullets and automatic weapons off the streets. They should only be available to police officers and to hunt al Qaeda and the Taliban and not hunt elementary school children.

Zurawik concluded by saying that “the further we fall from the core values of journalism to inform and clarify…[the more] we add to the confusion and cacophony in these deeply troubled times.” CNN and MSNBC producers and news directors should take note, of course, but the real problem is that the "confusion and cacophony" in the initial aftermath cynically serves the emotionalist appeals of the gun-control crowd. Network news producers sympathetic to broader gun control measures can't know that.

Ultimately, the media need more ideological balance on the issue of gun rights/gun regulation in the newsroom to combat the groupthink and herd mentality which drive the media narrative in a leftward, 2nd Amendment rights-abridging direction.