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Understanding Newtown: When does shielding victims trump the press' push to know?



newtown-media.jpgAs the dust settles in Newtown, Conn., the stories have begun about the press hounding a community trying to heal after one of the most horrific mass shootings in recent memory.

The Facebook postings from some residents, as displayed by BuzzFeed, are damning. One accuses a CBS News staffer of pretending to be a friend of grieving mothers to get onto her property; another said six journalists questioned her during a visit to a vigil site.

Florida residents and journalists know these types of scenes well. Most recently, a similar scene unfolded on Bayshore Drive in Tampa, as journalists staked out the home of local socialite Jill Kelley after her named surfaced in connection to former CIA director David Petraeus' admitted affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell.

Residents of Sanford, Fla. suffered a similarly serious attack of media as the shooting death of unarmed African American teen Trayvon Martin became an international story.

Still, much as some resent the media's intrusion, other families have spoken up about their fallen relatives. Those of us with the unfortunate experience of covering tragedies know there are often times when people at the center of such events find talking cathartic -- helping them process their emotions (can't count how many times that's happened when interviewing spouses or relatives for obituaries, for example.)

And for every person who says such coverage isn't necessary, there are others who want to know exactly why and how such an incident happened. Unfortunately, there's few ways to get those answers without asking lots of people who knew shooter Adam Lanza, his murdered mother Nancy Lanza and others connected to that family and the victims' families.

Despite a request from the local Newtown Bee newspaper that out-of-town media cool it, doesn't seem likely these media hordes will go away anytime soon.

Should they? Can a hyper-competitive news media walk away from one of the biggest stories of the year with so many questions still unanswered? I'll be talking to the Canadian Broadcast Corporation tomorrow morning about this issue; what should I tell them?

Image below courtesy of BuzzFeed.newtownenhanced-buzz-18730-1355932852-1.jpg  

[Last modified: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 4:59pm]


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