The Newtown, Conn., shootings left the nation collectively silent and in shock – except in one arena: cable news networks.
Turn on any cable news network this week, and you were bombarded by the story. The young, smiling faces full of hope, life and love, taken away from their families by a barely-adult and a handful of weapons. Devastated families walking away from cameras. There's nothing new to report yet – the motive is still unknown, the tragedy overwhelming, but still, we cycle through the same story, over and over, waiting eagerly for the next nugget to report.
There are two terrible flaws in this system. One, the viewer ultimately becomes desensitized to tragedy, and two, the name that we remember is the villain of the situation, ultimately, in a perverse way, glorifying the one who caused all the pain.
In my mind's eye, I see this playing out in a vicious dark circle of sadness.
Think, for example, about the impact immersion in a story like this can potentially have, particularly on someone with bigger issues than friends or family are equipped to understand.
He grows up watching the Columbine massacre unfold on the television. He can't tell you the names of the 13 who died that day, or the 21 who were injured, but Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris? You bet he remembers their names.
Seung-Hui Cho, Jared Loughner, James Holmes – Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora, Colo. – names on the fringe of society that suddenly became infamous for acts of senseless murder.
What message does this send?
It's impossible to know the influence the 24-hour news cycle has, what toll it takes on viewers, what seeds are unintentionally planted. But maybe it's time to turn it off, and let the lack of viewership speak to the slipping standard of cable news reporting.
Maybe one day, they'll get the message, and keep the news reporting to what's new and newsworthy, instead of rehashing the same dark details over and over again, speculating with random pundits on the “whys' and “what might have beens” to which we'll likely never know the answer.
Remember these names and their families instead, the victims of the Connecticut shootings, in your hearts and thoughts, and give their families time to grieve in peace: Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Rachel Davino, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, Dylan Hockley, Dawn Hocksprung, Madeleine F. Hsu, Catherine V. Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Anne Marie Murphy, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Lauren Russeau, Mary Sherlach, Victoria Soto, Benjamin Wheeler and Allison N. Wyatt.