There are some things in this world that should be private, and among them is saying goodbye to a loved one. If Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson dies, one can understand the public nature of the services and the media’s need to cover the proceedings; however, even then there is a rush to highlight the emotions of other famous people in attendance, and the feeling is one of invasion during what should be a private matter.
The tiny, quiet village known as Newtown, Connecticut, had no illusions about becoming anything but what it was (small-town Americana at its best) before the horrific events of December 14, 2012. Since then, the media has descended upon this town like buzzards in the desert flying around a dying man. Not only is this continued presence causing discomfort for the families who have to lay their loved ones to rest, but it also has become a source of frustration for the other residents of the hamlet.
I can imagine that each morning the people of Newtown wake up, look out the window, and feel like they are living a recurring nightmare something like Bill Murray’s character in the film Groundhog Day. While that movie was played for laughs with some dark undertones, this current situation is nothing funny and is actually becoming more gruesome with each passing day.
Sometimes I catch a couple of seconds of some coverage, and I wince as I witness Erin Burnett of CNN’s OutFront chattering with townsfolk as if this is something we should be watching every day. I quickly change the channel, but she is not the only guilty party, and I find the same thing happening on other networks. It reminds me of the media camping out and waiting for the OJ verdict or some other journalistic shark feeding. The problem is that this is not “news” but rather the saddest chapter in the lives of these families, and they deserve to be able to say goodbye without the hovering of reporters, photographers, and curious tourists from other places who get some kind of vicarious pleasure out of this kind of thing.
During this week since the shootings I have refused to watch the TV coverage, mostly because it seems to be geared to getting more ratings than anything that is worth reporting as news. I also feel it is incongruous to continue to do pieces on the killer and his family and find these reports offensive. I know this attracts the voyeurs and oddballs who like to know what makes a nutcase tick, but there is an even more nefarious side to this: the next mass murderer is probably recording all of this and plotting his own big move, confident that he will get the same media coverage as this guy.
For this reason I have not mentioned the killer’s name, nor will I. We should not be enhancing his stature to the wannabees out there, to the psychopaths who feel this is a twisted form of glory. Quite frankly I do not care why he snapped, what his motivation was, or anything about his life. He is only in the news because he did something so disgustingly inhuman that it makes me truly sick. The only thing I wish I heard about him was that he had blown his own brains out before he hurt his mother or went to that school.
Eventually, all the dead will be buried in Newtown, and the insipid media types will pack their bags and cameras onto trucks and leave the town to mourn in silence. It will be too late then to change anything, to make it right is past being possible, and the families will be staring at their lost children’s pictures for years to come wondering why. There is no satisfactory answer and there never will be, and the next tragedy awaits and the cameras and reporters will be there too, like roaches when the lights come on.
Everyone always talks about rights, but grieving families most certainly have rights like anyone else. We have seen an egregious case of abuse perpetrated by the media in Newtown. Something should change that would allow people in a case like this to have a chance for privacy and to grieve out of the media spotlight but, as long as there is freedom of speech and of the press there will be no respite from the glare of lights and the droves of reporters eager to get that story. I would like to think that common human decency would prevail in such matters, but I am learning the hard way that this will never happen, just as the residents of Newtown have during this media blitz.
I feel such sorrow for those Newtown families that lost loved ones, but I am angered by the networks that have perpetrated this continuing coverage and those viewers who have a need to watch as this mourning unfolds on TV. Why do they need to see these funerals or to have reporters talk about it? What have we become and how have we gotten to this horrific place? I fear the answers may be just too hard for us to take.