In the Wake of a Tragedy: Bad Journalism


The absolutely, laughably horrendous reporting of yesterday’s tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary just makes me cringe. Almost everything that came out of it was wrong.

I want to preface by saying, of course the worst and most important part of what happened yesterday is that way too many people lost their lives. But I don’t think I should have to mention that without people knowing. I know it, we all know it, and if I have to point it out to you, then you’re a terrible person. The thing is: I don’t know any of the deceased or their families. I can’t cry and grieve over someone I’ve never met. I can be sympathetic and empathetic, I can be thankful that my own children are home with me, but the families will not know that, and it will make no difference to them. In addition, all of the grief in the world is not going to bring these children back to these parents. Therefore, I choose to be annoyed about something that can be changed.

I’m also going to take a quick soapbox moment and ask that people stop painting Adam Lanza as some total raving psycho that should have been medicated or institutionalized? Stop asking if anyone saw any signs. People are blaming the mom (because why not) for having guns (they were all registered to her) around a mentally unstable son.  He had a form of autism and stories are saying OCD. Some are saying Asperger’s (Just another thing to add to the list of inconsistent reporting). This is not something you can just pop a pill for and be okay. This is not something that you as a parent think, oh, my kid is autistic… better hide all the weapons in case he snaps one day. NO! STOP THAT! You can look back on his entire life, nothing is going to stand out as a “sign” that he would later go on a murderous rampage. Please do not lump autism or Asperger’s in with any kind of mental dysfunction that carries a disregard for human life.

Okay. Now… let’s get into the serious of ridiculousness that I as a media consumer was subjected to yesterday.

First there was a second shooter that was apprehended in the woods, who “looked right at one of the parents and said ‘I didn’t do this.”

Then they say the killer was Ryan, who’s Facebook page gets spammed all over the internet – which, by the way, exposed all the internet vigilantes. A friend of mine sent me the link to his page. I looked at it, I looked at his pictures, I looked through his photography page.  The whole time thinking that he was a good-looking guy, and he didn’t seem to have any weird likes, there was nothing strange about him. He was a total hipster. However, tens of thousands of people shared his profile picture on their own page, with all the ‘this is the face of a killer’ labeling. Some of them were extremely vicious, and while I get it – they believed this guy had committed a heinous act – it was so unnecessary. Let’s pretend for a moment that he was the killer… he still has a family too. They have to suffer the fact that their loved one is dead himself, after taking the lives of so many innocents.

Then, they say that his mother, a teacher at the school, is among those who had their lives taken from them there.

Then they say one of the shooter’s brothers was found dead at home in NJ.

Then, the father is dead at home in CT.

Then they say the now-dead killer is Adam, and the one they took into custody was his brother Ryan, and that Adam had Ryan’s ID on him.

Then it turns out Ryan wasn’t there at all. Then all the news articles that wrote ‘sorry, wrong guy’ articles still used his profile pictures in the article, with screenshots of the page (because he either took it down or put it on privacy lockdown). Holy missing the point Batman. Do you see this guy right here? This one. He’s not the guy, guys. It wasn’t him. But, here, look at his pictures, even this one from six years ago. Here’s his friends list. Here are some recent status updates, as well as his friends’ responses. Oh Ryan. Normally I mock frivolous lawsuits, but frivolous this is not. Please sue the pants out whoever published your Facebook page first.

Then they say the father is not dead.

Then the other brother is not dead because there is no other brother. But, surprise! Ryan was picked up from his appartment in NJ. Had nothing to do with it. Can you imagine being harassed on FB by strangers while he was just trying to get home from work, gets to find out by police that his mother and brother are dead – and oh, by the way, you’re coming with us. He was questioned, but that was it.

This is where we find out that there was no second shooter at all, and most likely the info of him being detained and him declaring his innocence on Facebook became convoluted into the ‘a second shooter tells parents he didn’t do it’ story that they were peddling. Oh, and then we never hear anything more about his ID being on Adam.

Then the mother was not killed at school, but at home – still not clear if she and Adam lived together, because some reports say she was shot at his house, some say that he went to her house, some say that he killed someone he lived with.

There’s still this business about his girlfriend and another friend allegedly being missing, which keeps changing.

Oh, oh, and let’s not forget this gem, which Limasse just reminded me about. Someone actually said, out loud, that they were still trying to determine the timeline: Whether or not Mrs. Lanza was killed before or after the incident at the school. How the rest of the news room didn’t laugh out loud at this is beyond me. Gee, Inspector Clouseau, we have Mrs. Lanza, deceased, at home. We have the killer, dead, at he school. Unless he zombied his way to her house and then back to the school, I think we know which happened first.

You’ve got to be kidding me. Christ, my quarterly reports look like they deserve a Pulitzer compared to all this. Never in my life have I seen such shitty reporting. I think they only thing they got right were the unfortunate and tragic deaths.

And why are we interviewing the kids. First off, they’re not telling you anything that you don’t already know. Second, these kids are not trained in reporting information. I don’t want a second-grader telling me that “we, like, went into the corner of the room and, like, ducked,” is not you doing your job. And then, yes, a little bit a judging here: Why did the parents consent to the interview? If that were any one of my kids – if I was lucky enough to be one of the parents who got to leave with my child instead of with horrible, heartbreaking news – I would have gone straight home and locked the doors. I wouldn’t answer the phone or any emails. I might change my voicemail to indicate that everyone was safe, I can’t imagine how many phone calls I would get. But there’s not a freaking chance in hell I’d STAY THERE and let my kids talk to a reporter.

Honestly.  I know there was a clusterfuck of information, but you’d think someone would take the time to fact-check. I know that the media has turned into a business, and that everyone wants to be the first to have the info, but you’d think just one of them would want to be the first to have the right info.

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About Jessénia

Jessénia Natalia Larcombe-Urban is a graduate of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School and NYU, where she is a member of Alpha Phi Zeta. The owner and president of Síren Call Records, Sénia has five children and one step son with her late husband. View all posts by Jessénia

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