We wrap up what has been a horrific week here in the United States. Today, just as the past couple of days, The Poynter Report is dedicated to coverage of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two adults were murdered by an 18-year-old gunman.
A note: The Poynter Report will not be published on Monday in honor of Memorial Day. We will return next Tuesday.
Now here is more media coverage regarding the shooting.
Days after the shooting, there are questions about the police response. Video has surfaced showing parents of the schoolchildren imploring police to go in, or wanting to go into the school themselves.
The Washington Post’s Bryan Pietsch, Andrew Jeong, Annabelle Timsit, Adela Suliman and Timothy Bella wrote, “Parents have criticized police in the aftermath, saying they were unprepared and acted too slowly.”
The Post also wrote, “A regional director with the Texas Department of Public Safety, Victor Escalon Jr., said at a news conference Thursday that the shooter was ‘not confronted by anybody’ as he entered the elementary school in Uvalde, contradicting earlier reports. He said officers arrived on the scene four minutes after the shooter entered the building and that the gunman was killed approximately an hour after arriving at the campus.”
CNN’s Eric Levenson, Holly Yan and Elizabeth Wolfe reported that Escalon offered a “muddled timeline” for what happened on Tuesday and they added, “He struggled to explain why the police response took an hour, saying that would come further in the investigation.”
They also wrote, “And nearly 48 hours later, serious questions still remain about how an 18-year-old with an assault-style rifle got inside the school, what law enforcement did in response and how the gunman was able to remain inside for as long as an hour before a tactical team finally forced its way in and killed him.”
Also, read this story from The Washington Post’s Jon Swaine, Joyce Sohyun Lee and Mark Berman: “As timeline emerges, police criticized for response to school massacre.”
Cruz storms off
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz stormed off after being confronted with tough questions from a British journalist on Wednesday.
During an interview with British Sky News reporter Mark Stone, Cruz was asked about gun reform. He responded by saying, “You know, it’s easy to go to politics.”
Stone kept pressing, however, telling Cruz that guns were at the “heart of the issue.” Cruz verbally pushed back, saying, “I get that that’s where the media likes to go.”
The exchange continued and then Stone asked in a measured tone, “Why does this only happen in your country? Why only in America? Why is this American exceptionalism so awful?”
Cruz snapped back, “You know, I’m sorry you think American exceptionalism is awful. You’ve got your political agenda. God love you.”
As Cruz stormed off, Stone continued questioning, saying, “It’s just an American problem.”
Cruz then said, “Why is it that people come from all over the world to America? Because it’s the freest, most prosperous, safest country on Earth. Stop being a propagandist.”
Seemed as if Stone asked reasonable questions, but Cruz clearly had no intention of answering. Or maybe he had no reasonable answers.
Notable journalism that you should check out …
- The New York Times’ Max Fisher with “Other Countries Had Mass Shootings. Then They Changed Their Gun Laws.”
- The New York Times’ Carl Hulse with “Why Republicans Won’t Budge on Guns.”
- Politico’s Jordain Carney and Marianne Levine with “The 10 GOP senators to watch in the wake of the Texas school shooting.”
- Don’t forget the victims. Not just of this shooting, but of all the awful shootings. Here are 20 from seven previous shootings. It’s the Tampa Bay Times editorial board with: “They were just kids.”
- Writing for Slate, Justin Peters with “Why Nothing Changed After the Shooting That Changed Everything.” Peters writes, “I’m describing what I saw as a journalist in Newtown, but I don’t mean to suggest that the media and the Democratic politicians now talking about gun control have the same role or agenda here. The overlap between many journalists and many Democrats on matters of gun control — especially in the wake of mass shootings — is not, to me, a matter of the media being compromised by the left-wing agenda so much as it reflects a link between policy and tragedy that is so obvious that the only people who do not see it are those who have chosen to close their eyes.”
Should we show the images?
These mass shootings keep happening, but nothing seems to change. As much as Americans talk about how awful these shootings are, have we become desensitized to them? Is there anything that can shake our malaise into action? Is there anything that can be done to convince some that “thoughts and prayers” simply aren’t enough?
A debate has started that, perhaps, images from these horrific events be shared with the public — just to show how truly gruesome it is. David Boardman, the dean of the Klein College of Media and Communication at Temple University, tweeted, “Couldn’t have imagined saying this years ago, but it’s time — with the permission of a surviving parent — to show what a slaughtered 7-year-old looks like. Maybe only then will we find the courage for more than thoughts and prayers.”
Other journalists agree. Speaking on air, CNN’s Jake Tapper said, “… maybe we should. Maybe the shock to the system would prompt our leaders to figure out how to make sure society can stop these troubled men — and it’s almost always men — from obtaining these weapons used to slaughter our children.”
Boardman spoke with Philadelphia Magazine’s David Murrell and said, “So it seems to me that this is a case — and again, I would seek out permission from families to be able to do this, and I wouldn’t do it today or tomorrow, I might wait until next week or the week after — to graphically show the public and, by extension, the members of the United States Senate, what this sort of devastation looks like. In 1955, Emmett Till’s mother insisted that the casket of her 14-year-old son be open and publicly displayed so that America could see the outrageous cruelty of what white racists in the South were doing to Black men. Jet magazine took a picture of that, that picture circulated around the country and the world, and it marked a real change in the Civil Rights Movement. I think we’re at that point now.”
A grotesque deja vu
The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi and Elahe Izadi noted that it was less than two weeks ago when CNN’s Victor Blackwell stood outside a supermarket in Buffalo and got emotional as he added all the mass shootings he had covered. “I’ve done 15 of these, at least the ones I can count,” he said.
Now it’s 16 following the shooting in Texas.
As Fahri and Izadi wrote, “Media coverage of the massacre in Uvalde feels like a grotesque deja vu — the initial police alerts, the teeming crime scene, the live helicopter shots, the family tragedies and, inevitably, another round of inconclusive debates about gun control and mental health.”
For The San Antonio Report, Robert Rivard wrote about the Wednesday press conference held by Gov. Greg Abbott and other Republicans. (It’s the press conference that was interrupted by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke.)
Rivard wrote, “In a state deeply divided on issues of gun control, Wednesday’s press conference, with all its drama, will do little to change the minds of voters, much less heal the wounds of the families left to mourn their lost loved ones.”
Here are some front pages and magazine covers from this week.
Click here for, tragically, three covers from Time magazine that look eerily similar, even though they were printed at different times: this week, in August 2019 and in April 2018.
And click here for the front page of Thursday’s Uvalde Leader-News.
Powerful late-night monologues
On his show Wednesday, late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel gave an emotional nine-minute monologue about the shooting. He taped it in a studio without an audience. He was only seconds into it before his tears forced him to pause. His grief then turned to anger when he spoke about lawmakers, saying, “Our cowardly leaders just aren’t listening to us, they’re listening to the NRA, they’re listening to those people who write them checks, who keep them in power, because that’s the way politics work.”
He then addressed Texas politicians, saying, “I would like to say to Ted Cruz, the human being, and Gov. Abbott, and everyone, it’s OK to admit you made a mistake. In fact, it’s not just OK, it’s necessary to admit you made a mistake when your mistake is killing the children in your state. It takes a big person to do something like that. It takes a brave person to do something like that. And do I think these men are brave people? No, I don’t. But man, I would love it if they surprised me.”
Kimmel added, “This is not a time for moments of silence, this is a time to be loud and to stay loud and not stop until we fix this. … How does this make sense to anyone? These are our children!”
There was much more, so be sure to watch.
Meanwhile, there was a touch of controversy about Kimmel’s monologue. A Dallas TV station, WFAA, cut off the monologue. On Thursday, however, the station put out a statement saying it was a technical error.
The statement said, “Unfortunately, the automated system that triggers commercials aired the first commercial break in error, interrupting Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue. The same technical error also impacted two commercial breaks later in the program, not just the one interrupting the monologue. WFAA apologizes for this error.”
Kimmel wasn’t the only late-night show to talk about the shooting.
NBC’s Seth Meyers devoted 13 minutes to it during his “A Closer Look” segment. And on CBS, Stephen Colbert said, “Americans have witnessed gun tragedy after gun tragedy. And while it can be argued that there are many reasons, we all know the biggest reason for the tragedy is the gun.”
Jen Psaki’s response
Speaking of late-night shows, former White House press secretary Jen Psaki appeared on Wednesday’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
Psaki told Fallon, “I have two little kids. And the first reaction I had when I saw the news was shock, of course. I’m sure this was what they were feeling in the White House too — and sadness, that kind of sadness that you get when your throat feels like if you talk you’re going to cry, that kind of sadness. And then you feel fear. And like so many parents across the country I was thinking about sending my daughter to kindergarten today. ‘Is she safe? Is she OK there? What kind of security do they have? Should they have security?’ Those are the kind of thoughts that are going through your head when you’re in the White House too because you’re thinking about what the country is experiencing, or communities are experiencing and what you can do to help heal and to help bring some calm if you can in that moment.”
Is there any hope? Can things change?
Psaki told Fallon, “Nobody is powerless in this moment. Everybody has a voice. Everybody can use that voice in many ways. Yes, you can vote. You can also get involved in a lot of organizations. There are amazing organizations fighting for gun reform out there. What I learned from working in the White House and working in government is that you have to always have hope. You have to always think that change is possible and that maybe it’s not going to happen next month or next year, but what happens when you have tragedies like the one in Texas is it jerks people awake in a lot of ways. Guns … kill more kids every year than anything else. That’s a fact. There are more guns in this country than there are people in this country and those type of details jerk people awake and that’s sometimes when change happens.”
Psaki also talked about her joining MSNBC.
Veteran journalist Katie Couric shared her thoughts in an essay — “Not Again” — for her website.
Couric wrote, “It’s so depressing to hear the same, tired arguments surface after this latest example of senseless carnage. (‘It’s a mental health problem’ — no, it’s not. It’s easy access to guns. Other countries have the same mental health issues and far lower incidences of gun violence. The ridiculous adage of ‘The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun; is just that…ridiculous. ‘Arm teachers!’ Seriously? I could go on, but you get the drift: Anything but sensible gun laws.)”
Couric added, “Can we finally take action? Doesn’t it seem strange that many of the states that require a waiting period for a woman to obtain an abortion have no waiting periods for gun purchases?”
Couric has a good daily newsletter. You can sign up at KatieCouric.com.
More notable journalism …
- The New York Times’ Dana Goldstein with “Popular school security strategies have not stopped mass shootings.”
- The Atlantic’s Elizabeth Bruenig with “A Culture That Kills Its Children Has No Future.” Bruenig writes, “We are already living through this. It is hard to bear. All around us things that ought to matter shrink in proportion to things that ought not to; a sense of real agency in politics or government feels limited, distant; lives that used to seem perfectly accessible to your average young person seem impossible now, while darkly fantastical lives — like those of the mass shooters whose profiles are now too many and too common to differentiate, with their weird paramilitary bravado and meme-inflected manifestos — are growing more familiar to us. I fear they’ll become more familiar still.”
- In an op-ed for The Los Angeles Times, Louis Klarevas, Sonali Rajan and Charles Branas with “Why our response to school shootings is all wrong.” They write, “If our goal is to keep school shootings from happening in the first place, we have to prioritize prevention over after-the-fact interruption, the way we do with other forms of violence such as bombings. Our laws make it nearly impossible for bad actors to legally obtain the precursor explosives necessary for building large-scale bombs. And there are no elected officials claiming that the only way to stop a bad guy with a bomb is a good guy with a bomb.”
- Also in the Los Angeles Times, letters editor Paul Thornton with this commentary: “Can any American parent honestly say school massacres are ‘unimaginable’?”
- Vanity Fair’s Charlotte Klein with “‘We cannot sanitize these killings’: Breaking grimly routine coverage of mass shootings.”
- Wall Street Journal sports columnist Jason Gay with “This could not be a sports column.”
Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at email@example.com.
More resources for journalists
- Subscribe to The Collective — Poynter’s monthly newsletter for journalists of color by journalists of color.
- Hiring? Post jobs on The Media Job Board — Powered by Poynter, Editor & Publisher and America’s Newspapers.
- Teachapalooza: Front-Edge Teaching Tools for College Educators (In-person or Online Seminar) — June 10-12, Apply now.
- Summit for Reporters & Editors (Seminar) July 7-23 — Apply by June 17.
The Poynter Report is our daily media newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, sign up here.