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News roundup: On silence, message and strategy

UDPATE 12-21-12: The NRA held a press conference today calling for armed guards in schools. Read the transcript here.

5:17 p.m. UPDATE: The NRA has released a statement.

In explaining their silence, the pro-gun-rights group says:
 

Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting.

 
A news conference is set for Dec. 21. USA TODAY has a story here.
 
BEGIN ORIGINAL POST: As the National Rifle Association remains conspicuous in absence following the Sandy Hook shootings, more media are dissecting the pro-gun-rights group’s strategy of silence as calls for more gun regulations mount.

From USA TODAY’s Chuck Raasch and Kevin Johnson: NRA is mum amid calls for change after Newtown shootings.

(Disclosure: I worked on this story prior to publication.)

The Associated Press (via the Christian Science Monitor) has their own take, asking: No NRA tweets or comments: A savvy tactic or mistake?

Finally, the NPR looks at what we the media got wrong in the first horrific hours of the unfolding tragedy, a series of mistakes that can be partly blamed on the speed-to-market directives that power digital journalism but may also have been rooted in sloppy sourcing and a failure to adhere to the journalistic basics of who, what, where, when and why.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: The views expressed here are mine and not my employer’s.


4 Comments

Shut up and grieve

The news was mind-numbingly horrifying.

At least 27 dead at an elementary school. Or maybe it was 26. No, some networks were reporting 28.

At least 18 children dead. No, it’s 20. At least 20 children dead.

The shooter has been identified as –. No, the shooter has been incorrectly identified. It’s another guy, a guy who is defending himself on Facebook. (“IT WASN’T ME!”)
 

There’s been a lot of miscommunication on this and we need to correct that.

 

~ FBI source,
Los Angeles Times

 
Yeah, somebody needs to correct that. There were lots of corrections yesterday. Like the rest of the nation, I spent much of Dec. 14 trying — and failing — to make sense of the senseless slaughter in Newtown, Conn. The more I sought answers, the fewer I found. The mainstream media was of no help, but we were doing the best we could. I was off yesterday so I had the luxury of playing armchair media critic, tallying the hits and misses. One of the early — and few — hits came from my USA TODAY colleague Susan Page. Page was on MSNBC, I suppose to comment on something less horrifying, and when Andrea Mitchell tried to turn the conversation to gun control, Page rightfully responded with: “Today is not the day to talk about the politics.”
 

Today is not the day to talk about the politics.

 

~ Susan Page,
USA TODAY Washington bureau chief

 

Indeed, it wasn’t. It was a day to grieve. A goddamn awful day to mourn the loss of little children who still believed in Santa Claus; a heartbreaking day to pray for the mothers and fathers who will bury their babies.

There were scores of prayers on Twitter — and the rumblings of a brewing debate. It would be best to ignore Twitter this day, an exercise in futility for me. On Facebook, the social media network I love to hate, a handful of idiot friends started politicizing the murders before the bodies were cold. Less than two hours after the news broke, arguments for gun rights and gun control filled my newsfeed. Between the news reports attempting to detail the day’s horror and the rapid-fire copy-and-paste activism, I was grateful for a friend’s report from Disney World and another friend’s sighting of Dave Grohl. Tiny bright moments on a dim, dark, damnable day.

I needed to log off, but I was curious to read the official statements from the NRA and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. What were their messages? One of the idiot Facebook friends commented on my husband’s Wall that he had been forwarded an email from the NRA promoting gun rights as the tragedy unfolded. I smelled a lie. The NRA is a lot of things, but it’s not stupid. In fact, the pro-gun-rights organization was quiet yesterday, conspicuous in absence. Their Twitter feed fell silent; I could not find a news release about Newtown on the website. Keeping quiet is wise. Now is not the time to convince or persuade.

The Brady Campaign seemed to understand this, too — or at least their messenger did. The gun-control group was, not surprisingly, at the forefront of the commentary, with Virginia Tech survivor and gun-control advocate Colin Goddard appearing on MSNBC, visibly distressed and with a plea for compassion, not debate. It was a position not popular with the conflict-hungry media.
 

How do I feel?
I want to scream at the top of my lungs.
I want to cry.
How the hell do you think I feel? It’s horrible.

 

~ Colin Goddard,
Virginia Tech survivor to the New York Daily News

 

I’m a member of the media, and I understand why we jackals want the gun debate to rage: Conflict is interesting. In news or novels, conflict is the key to a great story. I also understand there are no easy answers in the debate over guns. There is only so much legislation can solve. And legislation will never eradicate pure evil and it can’t fix crazy. And arming every man, woman and child to the teeth won’t solve anything, either. These are all points that will be debated in the following months as the conversation turns to the nation’s laws, personal freedoms, the Constitution. But in this sorrowful here and now, in a holiday season that shines less bright, it’s time to mourn the loss of little children who still believed in Santa; time to pray for the mothers and fathers who will bury their babies.

It’s a time to shut up and grieve.
 
 
EDITOR’S NOTE: The views expressed here are mine and not my employer’s.