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A Horrible Situation Made Worse

Compassion, love, and support are required in the aftermath of tragedy and these sentiments are unable to surface when media is ever present with cameras, lights, and intrusive questioning.

I am thankful that the President of the United States came to Sandy Hook, Connecticut to pay his respects and to bring the condolences of our nation to the families and citizens of Sandy Hook who were recently devastated by the merciless killing of our innocent children, their teachers and their mentors at Sandy Hook Elementary School. His presence was appreciated and while he is the leader of this great nation, it was humbling to see him come into our community as a father and a husband.  I thank him for coming to this small Hamlet of Newtown, which is known as Sandy Hook.

I would like to address a very serious issue that, during this devastating time, has become quite disturbing; something which I am certain has been echoed by the citizens of every community that has been directly affected by the stigma of a violent crime spree.  I would like to address the media’s inability to know where the news ends and where the right to privacy for an individual begins.    

In the wake of the aftermath of this killing spree, my small two lane town has been made an impassable circus sideshow.  The quaint New England town that I have grown to love and nurture, Sandy Hook, has been made into a breeding ground for rubber necking and gawking.  The sensationalism caused by the journalists and reporters who continue to constantly stream live coverage in a town that is usually sound asleep by 11:00 p.m., has literally brought this Hamlet to a stand still.  The large boom trucks line both sides of Church Hill Road, tents shield reporters from the cold and misty rains, and the bright lights have made this sleepy center of Sandy Hook appear like a derelict urban street rather than the quaint New England town that I have grown to know and love.

Our citizens, my friends and family members, are being besieged with questions and microphones being shoved into our faces in what reporters were touting as a “respectful manner” while asking if we care to be interviewed.  I find no respect whatsoever in the act of a cameraman taping the thrust of a microphone into the blinded, grief stricken community and streaming sensationalism in the form of grief and mourning.  At a time when our small Sandy Hook had its innocence betrayed by the mass slaughtering of our children and mentors, we do not want to show the entire world our grief; nor do we want to share our anger, our disbelief, and our shock internationally.  Rather, we are extremely thankful for the outpouring of prayers, of support, love, and compassion being expressed from a world that shows respect and compassion by keeping its distance and attempting to shield and protect us from the voyeuristic nature of the media as various vigils and services are held around this great world.  We are appreciative of the world that has surrounded us, from afar, with their support, well wishes and prayers.  Tragedy has a way of turning a large world into a small town and yet the media seems to miss this humanistic approach as they converge and focus solely on their ratings in one small community.

I fail to understand why many of the people who were directly impacted by the shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary were unable to obtain seating at the All Faith Vigil when there appeared to be a plethora of media taking up space that a citizen of the school should have been afforded.  Why is it necessary, in this modern age, for every media outlet in the world to show up and converge on a small town like Sandy Hook?  In this modern age of wireless access, remote live feeds, satellite access, and whatever else the media has at their disposal, I find it a difficult pill to swallow that some how, some way, they could not figure out how to minimize their intrusive, voyeuristic presence and curtail the number of invasive cameras, camera operators, and reporters.  Why is it that a smaller camera presence could not have been accomplished to stream live coverage to the studios of all of the various and sundry interested media and allow them the ability to edit that coverage in the comfort of their own studios, away from families who are in mourning?  I do not believe that live streaming the tears and anguish on the faces of innocent people is a newsworthy topic.  I believe that respect for fellow human beings has been lost and that personal responsibility in reporting has become extinct in favor of ratings and awards.  I believe that there is no humanity among the reporters of the world.  I believe that what they are now reporting as “human interest” stories is tantamount to voyeurism of the vilest kind.

What took place in Sandy Hook Elementary School is beyond the scope of any anguish that I could describe with mere words.  What is currently taking place with the media is beyond reprehensible.  While I appreciate that they are not using the name of the perpetrator with any regularity, it seems that they are not extending their humanity and respect to the memories of these fallen individuals, to their families, or to the greater Sandy Hook area.

What can we do, as a world, to minimize this sort of intrusion after the news has been reported?  It seems to me that regardless of the fact that the media is not using the name of the shooter with as much frequency as they have in prior years, they continue to highlight and sensationalize the crime scene and the crime.  They continue to shove cameras in the face of a community in complete and utter turmoil.  They continue to use whatever underhanded and disgusting tactics and measures necessary to gain access to the families and friends of the victims.  This is a gross injustice and a revolting violation of privacy.  In the age of social media, the internet, and satellite television feeds, we are becoming more hardened and calloused to one another’s personal anguish.  It is a shame that I am witnessing the decline of humanity and the slaughter of compassion by events perpetrated by the media and exploited for a world that seems unable to articulate their need to offer solace without the need of constant live coverage.

 Sandy Hook has felt the effects of a murderous coward and now we are feeling the effects of a vulture-like media feeding on the carnage and carrion left in the aftermath of devastation.  How can we effectively make them go away and afford this community the time it needs to heal?  There is no more breaking news here that cannot be successfully disseminated via the many modern technological avenues available to us.  Why then are they still here if not to perpetuate the rubber necking and gawking; to boost their ratings; to receive an AP or UPI award; or for some other personal gain?  Certainly they are not here to help this community or to accurately report the events.  None of the reporters even seem to know that they are reporting from Church Hill Road in Sandy Hook and not from Main Street in Newtown, which is, in fact, several miles away.

 So, I ask you, what can we do to move the media along after tragic events unfold and the actual news of the story has been reported?  Certainly funerals and memorial services are not events to be put on display for all the world; they are very real and very personal tragic events that are better left for family and friends to seek and find comfort from one another, to relive happier times and memories, and to share love and compassion.  To televise this heart wrenching grief is simply an unconscionable act of voyeurism and we should all be responsible in finding a way to end it, not just for Sandy Hook, but for all individuals who may suffer from an unspeakable act of violence in the future.

I pray that we are all restored to some level of normalcy and I fear that we have all been left hardened by the very graphic and often unreliable portrayal of these events in the media.  Please join me in sending a message to the media that we will not lose our humanity or our compassion as a result of their vulture-like voyeurism and that the time has come for them to leave us each in our peace.

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Nancee December 18, 2012 at 07:34 PM
God Bless you Shirley~ big cyber hug...Honestly, I do not know how in any way your Blog could be considered selfish or even misinterpreted. You're in the town.. These are your friends & honestly this is something no one can comprehend or even begin to understand that has not been directly affected... Empathize, hug their child longer, yes but for myself I cannot comprehend the magnitude of emotions these families are feeling...I agree too with Mr.D .. there will be people coming to pay respects for a long time. But the media....I feel if families want to speak out they will when they are ready..
Shirley Lenhard December 18, 2012 at 08:37 PM
I tragically lost my nephew a few years ago just a few weeks before his 22nd birthday. Had the media been this invasive I would not have been able to handle it. I appreciate your kindness. That we should all give one another blessings in this time and throughout this healing process. We are all in this together and hopefully, by turning off the television set and actively writing about the experience SOMEONE in the media might heed a word of advice and back off. Children are children for so little time, let them experience childhood fully. God bless you as well, Nancee, I needed the cyber hug and return it to you.
CC December 19, 2012 at 03:01 PM
I would like to send nothing but prayers, love and support during this difficult time. I first heard the awful news from local tv, as they were hearing it. It was a crazy time of mis-information left and right, some painfully correct and some painfully not. I understand the media is there to inform the people of CT and the rest of the world...but I have been completly disgusted watching these reporters sticking microphones in childrens faces, minutes after the shooting asking detailed questions about "what they saw?" "what they heard?" I can personally say I was in shock listening to these reporters interview elementry kids, and there parents for allowing it! I have also seen the past few days on Dr Phil, Dr Oz, The Doctors and any other media-shows interviewing the same children! Here are "dr's" telling the parents not to keep dicussing the details of that day to or in front of there children....yet I have seen some of the same parents and child! It really is disgusting the media cant let the victims families mourn in peace. I also personally feel Its way too soon to interview the poor familes has asked to please give them time and respect there wishes, yet the media wont stop! I have even heard media tracking the families on facebook & twitter. I pray the community of Newtown & the victims families can begin to heal. Please know we are all praying for you and will continue to!
Shirley Lenhard December 19, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Thank you for your kindness and continuing prayers, all of which this community and the world need more of!
Mark McCusker December 22, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Simply put we all appreciate the love and support we have received from everyone, including the media. However, it is now time for everyone to go home to their families to celebrate Christmas and to leave us to celebrate it as well and to heal. It is time for them to please GO HOME!

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