In the days after Sunday’s mass shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Tex., the town’s main crossroads was jammed with massive television trucks.
Dozens of news crews lined both sides of the street. Cars crawled at half the speed limit to make way for reporters crossing, setting up wires, ordering pizza, pitching makeshift tents. Swarms of journalists trampled the lawns of homes near the church. The Valero gas station’s convenience store, one of the town’s few businesses, began selling out of items.
Most of the people in this rural, grieving town with a usual population in the hundreds weren’t locals but outsiders, and many of them members of the news media. It was as if a second town was dumped onto an existing one, in the midst of an unimaginable tragedy that left 26 dead and 20 injured.
After any mass shooting, members of the media — including The Washington Post — swoop into town to document the stories of the victims and their loved ones. Each time this happens, family members affected by the attack are forced to mourn their loss with reporters knocking on their doors. It’s an unpleasant situation, for both the families trying to grieve and the reporters trying to do their jobs.
Now one journalist, saying she was “sickened” by the overwhelming throng of journalists, has made a public apology.
“Dear Sutherland Springs, you deserve an apology from the news media,” wrote Lauren McGaughy of the Dallas Morning News, acknowledging that she felt her own presence was an “intrusion.”
She noted that Sutherland Springs is very different from a big city like Las Vegas, the site of the last mass shooting on Oct. 1, in which Stephen Paddock fired more than 1,000 rounds into the crowd at a music festival, killing 58 and injuring 564 more.
This tiny town, “three square blocks of homes in which nearly every person lost someone,” McGaughy wrote, “should have been treated with more care.”
It was impossible to park at the post office or get a quiet meal at the local cafe, McGaughy said.
“People were holed up in their homes, loathing how a simple trip to the Dollar General would put them in our paths,” McGaughy wrote. “It was an invasion. It was too much.”
“I kept thinking there should be — there must be — a better way to cover a tragedy like this,” she added.
She urged members of the media to have a conversation about “how best to chronicle horrors like this.” She wrote that often, media coverage of mass shootings can prompt much-needed change, or encourage others to step in and help.
SOURCE: Samantha Schmidt
The Washington Post