Somber reflections from the journalist who was Editor of the Rocky Mountain News when the Columbine shootings happened, and who covered that story exhaustively.
I’m out of daily journalism now. But whenever there’s a mass shooting I have no desire to read the stories or watch the footage. There’s a ritual to the coverage, and it feels like it always follows the same arc and ends the same way. Journalists tell the story of what it was like to survive the slaughter. Then they offer tender accounts of the victims’ lives, detail where and how the weapons were purchased, publish profiles of the killer or killers, and write accounts of the struggles of the wounded. And then most of us move on, until the next shooting. Even the killing of 20 elementary-school children in Newtown, Connecticut, changed nothing.
This ritual can make journalism seem futile. I am forced to ask why journalists are doing this work in this way, and whether in the end it’s worth it.
Journalists feel the need to bear witness. But to the same horror, again and again? I can’t say anymore that I believe we learn from terrible things. I can say that I’ve seen the limits of journalism—and of hope. And I’m struggling with what to do about it.
I feel much the same. These atrocities have become, somehow, ‘normalised’.