Sunday, January 21, 2018

As Conn. shooting unfolds, media struglle to sort the facts

Pressed with the awful urgency of the story of the Connecticut shootings, television, along with other media, fell prey to reporting facts that were often in conflict or wrong. With wall-to-wall cable TV coverage and second-by-second Twitter postings, the process of updating and correcting it was visible to every onlooker. As facts were gathered by authorities, then shared with reporters (often on background), a seemingly higher-than-usual number of points failed to pan out:

THE DEATH TOLL: Initially reported as anywhere from the high teens to nearly 30. The final count was established Friday afternoon: 20 children and six adults, as well as Lanza's mother and the shooter himself.

WHICH BROTHER? For hours on Friday, the shooter was identified as Ryan Lanza, with his age alternatively reported as 24 or 20. The confusion seemed explainable when a person who had spoken with Ryan Lanza said that 20-year-old Adam Lanza, the shooter who had then killed himself, could have been carrying identification belonging to his 24-year-old sibling.

This case of mistaken identity was painfully reminiscent of the Atlanta Olympics bombing case in 1996, when authorities fingered an innocent man, and the news media ran with it, destroying his life. Such damage was averted in Ryan Lanza's case largely by his public protestations on social media, repeatedly declaring, "It wasn't me."

NANCY LANZA: Initial reports differed as to whether Lanza's mother, Nancy, was shot at the school, where she was said to be a teacher, or at the home she shared with Adam Lanza. By Friday afternoon, it was determined that she had been shot at their home.

Then doubts arose about whether Nancy Lanza had any link to Sandy Hook Elementary. At least one parent said she was a substitute teacher, but by early Saturday, an official said investigators had been unable to establish any connection with the school.

THE GUNS: At first, authorities said Lanza had used two pistols (a Glock and a Sig Sauer) in the attack and left a .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle in the trunk of a vehicle. But by Saturday afternoon, the latest information was that all the victims had been shot with the rifle at close range.

GUNMAN'S ATTIRE: There were numerous versions of what Lanza was wearing, including camouflage attire and black paramilitary garb.

Associated Press

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