We have become painfully aware of the shootings in Tucson which left six people dead and several others injured, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. What we have perhaps given less thought to is the different ways the story is being covered in the media, and just how much that changes the story.
Some coverage only inflames the vitriol by pointing fingers away from one side and towards blaming someone or something else (as one writer put it, the “matches and gasoline don’t start fires, people do” defense).
Getting less play, and worthy of more coverage, are the issues of guns and mental health. When there are witnesses who say they knew something like this would happen and it doesn’t get prevented, there is a breakdown in the systems that are meant to preserve our safety and well-being.
Getting virtually no play in the media is the fact that shootings happen in this country every day, and just because only a few become media sensations doesn’t mean that each incident isn’t a story worth telling, pointing to an issue needing to be powerfully addressed.
But it was perhaps the ladies on the new daytime chatfest The Talk who offered the most moving tribute to this story. They simply went around the table one by one giving the name and a small personal detail about each victim — putting a human face on an unspeakable tragedy. For in the end, the media is our storyteller, and the stories it tells are about us as a civilization.
UPDATE: President Obama gave a moving tribute speech in Tucson — see the speech and read the transcript here.