By Our Turn
The tragedy at Littleton, Colo., is now nearly two weeks in the past. The students have returned to the classrooms at another high school. The memorial services are coming to a close.
But the images of that day will be burned into the memory of people across the country. The nonstop news reports during and following the shooting at Columbine High School left little to the imagination. The carnage was fact, and we faced it up close and personal.
Some say too close, too personal.
The wake of close to home incidents such as the bomb threats in Bozeman, the unexploded bomb in Anaconda, the shooting death in Taber, Alberta, all the way down to the suspension of a Havre Middle School student for making death threats and the evacuation of Devlin after a phone threat has us asking questions about the medias roll in it all.
Did the media go too far? Did it cause as many problems as it covered? Is it at the root of the copycat incidents? Many are trying to find someone to blame, and the media is always an easy target.
In our own office we struggled to find the right word to describe the medias responsibility for copycat crimes. A catalyst, a instigator, a drawing board? One reporter said the media coverage may not have been the cause of ensuing violence, but was certainly the trigger device.
The fact remains the shooting at Columbine High School was news and the public not only had the right to know, but needed to know, to understand, to contemplate, and to be awakened.
But when is enough, enough? Should the tearful funerals be broadcast for public fodder? Should reporters track down the second cousin of the former janitors ex-wife? Should a television camera be stuck in the face of bloodied student who just watched their friend shot to death at close range?
Maybe it is time to re-draw the line. The distinction between giving the public the most thorough information available and the competition for ratings has blurred that line.