(Image source: Newtown Patch)

BY CHRISTINA HARTMAN

In the immediate aftermath of Friday’s mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School — the media collectively made some pretty big errors.

As NPR puts it, “It was journalistic bedlam.”

Details about what really happened are still trickling out, but here’s a look at some of the biggest media mistakes.

One of the first, that a second gunman might be in custody — reported by CBS and repeated by others.

FOX NEWS: “In fact, there is a second gunman in custody.”

WOFL: “Fox News reporting that a second gunman is now in custody. We haven't confirmed that.”

There was no second gunman.

Next — one of the more widely misreported ones — and one we flubbed as well — that the suspect’s mother worked at the elementary school.

KNBC: “We know that his mother worked here as a teacher.”

WSPA: “His mother worked at the school as a teacher, she is presumed dead.”

Now, authorities say they haven’t been able to establish a connection between Nancy Lanza and Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The Wall Street Journal quotes a former school board official as saying “No one has heard of her.” and “Teachers don’t know her.”

And a New York Times piece updated Tuesday clarifies — Lanza was never a teacher at the school.

It’s unclear how the initial reports got that wrong.

Another point of confusion might be related — That the suspect was buzzed in to gain access to the school.

WPLG: “We now know the principal buzzed him him after she recognized him as the son of a colleague.”

WXIX: “He was buzzed in because they knew him...”

But at a news conference Saturday police said Adam Lanza quote “forced his way in.”

And the Associated Press is now reporting he broke in through a window.

Finally, perhaps the most egregious media mistake — misidentifying the shooter.

CNN: “The shooter has been identified to me by a source as Ryan Lanza, in his 20s, … that has not been confirmed by the state police who did say that a search warrant is being executed at this time.”

Ryan Lanza, it turned out, is the brother of the actual suspect — Adam Lanza. CNN continued to report the wrong name for hours. And in the meantime, Ryan Lanza’s social media presence was flooded with hate mail.

HLN: “He had a Facebook page.”

WABC: “On Facebook we understand that Ryan Lanza is calling himself a Hoboken resident. All we know is this was tied to him.”

As people flocked to his Facebook profile Ryan Lanza issued repeated denials. Media outlets eventually released corrections — with some blaming incorrect information from law enforcement officials. But in all the confusion, a journalism professor tells The Washington Free Beacon:

“Journalists have to figure out what sources they can trust in a crisis situation ... Eyewitnesses are often considered the best sources, but even they should be viewed with suspicion.”

Though complete details on how most of these reports came to be aren’t clear — many of these media misfires stemmed from eyewitness accounts and anonymous so-called “officials.” Worth noting — the first several formal press conferences did not even name the suspect as Adam Lanza. Poynter’s Andrew Beaujon seems to suggest — a few errors might just be the price of instant news.

“Great journalism still takes time, usually, and breaking stories don’t require great journalism. They just require honesty about how damn hard it is to find out what happened and relay what you’ve learned.”

How The Media Botched The Sandy Hook Shootings

by Christina Hartman
0
Transcript
Dec 18, 2012

How The Media Botched The Sandy Hook Shootings



(Image source: Newtown Patch)

BY CHRISTINA HARTMAN

In the immediate aftermath of Friday’s mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School — the media collectively made some pretty big errors.

As NPR puts it, “It was journalistic bedlam.”

Details about what really happened are still trickling out, but here’s a look at some of the biggest media mistakes.

One of the first, that a second gunman might be in custody — reported by CBS and repeated by others.

FOX NEWS: “In fact, there is a second gunman in custody.”

WOFL: “Fox News reporting that a second gunman is now in custody. We haven't confirmed that.”

There was no second gunman.

Next — one of the more widely misreported ones — and one we flubbed as well — that the suspect’s mother worked at the elementary school.

KNBC: “We know that his mother worked here as a teacher.”

WSPA: “His mother worked at the school as a teacher, she is presumed dead.”

Now, authorities say they haven’t been able to establish a connection between Nancy Lanza and Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The Wall Street Journal quotes a former school board official as saying “No one has heard of her.” and “Teachers don’t know her.”

And a New York Times piece updated Tuesday clarifies — Lanza was never a teacher at the school.

It’s unclear how the initial reports got that wrong.

Another point of confusion might be related — That the suspect was buzzed in to gain access to the school.

WPLG: “We now know the principal buzzed him him after she recognized him as the son of a colleague.”

WXIX: “He was buzzed in because they knew him...”

But at a news conference Saturday police said Adam Lanza quote “forced his way in.”

And the Associated Press is now reporting he broke in through a window.

Finally, perhaps the most egregious media mistake — misidentifying the shooter.

CNN: “The shooter has been identified to me by a source as Ryan Lanza, in his 20s, … that has not been confirmed by the state police who did say that a search warrant is being executed at this time.”

Ryan Lanza, it turned out, is the brother of the actual suspect — Adam Lanza. CNN continued to report the wrong name for hours. And in the meantime, Ryan Lanza’s social media presence was flooded with hate mail.

HLN: “He had a Facebook page.”

WABC: “On Facebook we understand that Ryan Lanza is calling himself a Hoboken resident. All we know is this was tied to him.”

As people flocked to his Facebook profile Ryan Lanza issued repeated denials. Media outlets eventually released corrections — with some blaming incorrect information from law enforcement officials. But in all the confusion, a journalism professor tells The Washington Free Beacon:

“Journalists have to figure out what sources they can trust in a crisis situation ... Eyewitnesses are often considered the best sources, but even they should be viewed with suspicion.”

Though complete details on how most of these reports came to be aren’t clear — many of these media misfires stemmed from eyewitness accounts and anonymous so-called “officials.” Worth noting — the first several formal press conferences did not even name the suspect as Adam Lanza. Poynter’s Andrew Beaujon seems to suggest — a few errors might just be the price of instant news.

“Great journalism still takes time, usually, and breaking stories don’t require great journalism. They just require honesty about how damn hard it is to find out what happened and relay what you’ve learned.”

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