June 1, 2022

The mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, last week was just one of countless mass shootings we’ve had in this country going back years.

But there is something about this horrific shooting that seems to have impacted Americans more than other horrific shootings. Perhaps because it involved children. Or maybe because it happened only a week ago and we’re still in shock over it.

Sadly, however, the country will do what it always does. It will argue over gun laws, everyone will send their “thoughts and prayers” and we will move on to whatever is next in the news cycle. Former CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin wrote about mass shootings for The Atlantic with the headline, “Don’t Let the Cameras Turn Away.”

Baldwin recounted many of the mass shootings she covered during her career. And she wrote, “I see it differently this time, removed from the race to rush to Texas and the pressure to land interviews with victims’ families surrounded by the makeshift vigils of flickering candles, teddy bears, and crime tape. Let me tell you what will happen: The news media will be in Texas through this weekend, and then news executives will start paring down the coverage next week. The conversation has already turned to politics, as some pundits urge a focus on mental health and others on guns. Some journalists will try to hold our elected representatives’ feet to the fire. A segment or two will go viral. Americans will share their outrage on social media. And then another story will break next week, and the news cycle will move on.”

Then Baldwin offered a suggestion that is controversial, but worth considering. She wrote, “Having been part of the cable-news machine for more than a decade, I have a few ideas about how it can be fixed. Some of the children at Robb Elementary needed to be identified by DNA because their bodies had been ripped apart by assault-style weapons. I remember standing in silence as I watched one tiny white casket wheeled out of a funeral home when I was covering Sandy Hook in 2012. I had the thought then: Would minds change about guns in America if we got permission to show what was left of the children before they were placed in the caskets? Would a grieving parent ever agree to do this? I figured this would never happen. But perhaps now is finally the time to ask.”

Baldwin isn’t the first to bring up this idea. It’s been a topic of conversation since the school shooting in Texas, and even before that.

Susie Linfield, who teaches cultural journalism at New York University, wrote a guest essay for The New York Times on Tuesday: “Should We Be Forced to See Exactly What an AR-15 Does to a 10-Year-Old?”

Linfield wrote, “Photographic images can bring us close to the experience of suffering — and, in particular, to the physical torment that violence creates — in ways that words do not. What does the destruction of a human being, of a human body — frail and vulnerable (all human bodies are frail and vulnerable) — look like? What can we know of another’s suffering? Is such knowledge forbidden — or, alternately, necessary? And if we obtain it, what then?”

Many have used the example of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Black child murdered by white racists in Mississippi in 1955. His mother insisted on an open casket so the world could see how he was tortured. A photo taken by Jet magazine was seen across the globe and is believed to have played a role in the civil rights movement.

Linfield wrote, “In the case of Uvalde, a serious case can be made — indeed, I agree with it — that the nation should see exactly how an assault rifle pulverizes the body of a 10-year-old, just as we needed to see (but rarely did) the injuries to our troops in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. A violent society ought, at the very least, to regard its handiwork, however ugly, whether it be the toll on the men and women who fight in our name, on ordinary crime victims killed or wounded by guns or on children whose right to grow up has been sacrificed to the right to bear arms.”

“But,” Linfield continued, “seeing and doing are not the same, nor should they be. Images are slippery things, and it is both naïve and arrogant to assume that an image will be interpreted in only one way (that is, yours) and that it will lead to direct political change (the kind you support). Anti-abortion activists frequently wave images of fetuses at their rallies; these photos denote, to them, a nascent human being in need of protection. To abortion rights advocates, the image is sentimental, manipulative and, frankly, disgusting.”

Linfield went on to write, “In the case of Uvalde, all of this remains, for the most part, theoretical. It is highly unlikely that the grieving parents would ever consent to the publication of images of their children and equally hard to imagine that the pictures would not circulate on sites that would dishonor, if not defile, the victims. Images of dead children, after all, are different from all others. Children represent both innocence and promise — represent, in fact, our belief in the future. To see them violated elicits instinctual reactions of pity, anger, grief and shame. The question, though, is what we do with that vortex of emotions once it has been unleashed.”

Linfield then concludes — smartly — that lawmakers should see such disturbing visuals, but it would still be up to people — not photographs — to make changes. As Linfield wrote, “Don’t ask images to think, or to act, for you.”

Answering questions

Check out The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips, Steven Rich, John Woodrow Cox and Seung Min Kim answering reader questions about gun violence.

The question of publishing photos also came up in that roundtable. Cox, who has written extensively about children and gun violence, said, “I don’t foresee newspapers breaking from tradition any time soon and publishing the images, but I have raised the idea that lawmakers — especially those who refuse to consider any new gun safety reform — should look at the images. If they are insistent on 18-year-olds (or anyone else) owning weapons of war, they should understand what those weapons do to children.”

The entire conversation is worth your attention.

Powerful tweet

I had to mention this tweet sent out by rapper, producer and actor Ice-T. It has several silhouettes holding rifles. It then says:

If the shooter turns out to be …

Hispanic: “Build a wall!”

Arab: “Ban Muslims!”

Black: “BLM are terrorists!”

White: “We need to ask ourselves how are we as a society failing these poor troubled young men? What kind of movies, video games, and music are we making?”

Above it, Ice-T wrote, “American BS.”

He’s not wrong, especially if you’ve listened to many on the right, including right-wing media, following the mass shooting in Buffalo.

21 minutes of silence

On Tuesday, the media in Texas went silent for 21 minutes to honor the 21 victims killed in the mass shooting in Uvalde.

Katrice Hardy, executive editor of The Dallas Morning News, wrote, “We’re asking you to silence your social accounts Tuesday from noon until 12:21 p.m. so the people of Uvalde can feel our support from all over Texas.”

Many newsrooms across the state took part in the 21 minutes of silence, including the Houston Chronicle, The Texas Tribune, Austin American-Statesman, San Antonio Express-News and several TV and radio stations.

Interesting story of the day

President Joe Biden at the White House on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

NBC News’ Carol E. Lee, Peter Nicholas, Kristen Welker and Courtney Kube published this intriguing story on Monday: “Inside a Biden White House adrift.”

They write that Biden is “bristling” at how his aides are trying to tamp down his message and agenda and stifling his “plain-speaking persona that has long been one of his most potent assets.”

NBC News suggests a staff shakeup could eventually happen with the most notable being chief of staff Ron Klain departing after the midterms. A potential replacement could be Anita Dunn, whom NBC News described as a “White House adviser and Biden confidant whom he often turns to when his fortunes look bleak.” Other possibilities could be longtime aide Steve Ricchetti and domestic policy chief Susan Rice.

Biden’s approval ratings are down in the midst of epic challenges, including a pandemic, a war in Ukraine and economic woes.

But the crux of the article, and Biden’s displeasure, come in this paragraph: “Beyond policy, Biden is unhappy about a pattern that has developed inside the West Wing. He makes a clear and succinct statement — only to have aides rush to explain that he actually meant something else. The so-called clean-up campaign, he has told advisers, undermines him and smothers the authenticity that fueled his rise. Worse, it feeds a Republican talking point that he’s not fully in command.”

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, picking up on the part that Biden is frustrated by aides, tweeted, “agree, so fire them.”

Meanwhile, Biden wrote an op-ed over the weekend in The Wall Street Journal with the headline: “My Plan for Fighting Inflation.”

In the op-ed, Biden points out that the “job market is the strongest since the post-World War II era, with 8.3 million new jobs, the fastest decline in unemployment on record, and millions of Americans getting jobs with better pay”; that since he took office, “families have increased their savings and have less debt”; and “business investment is up 20% and manufacturing jobs are growing at their fastest rate in 30 years.”

But, as Politico’s Playbook wrote, “All of that may be true. But until it’s reflected in the lived experiences of everyday Americans, it’s likely going to be a hard sell to convince them that the economy is in better shape than they think.”

Featuring the first lady

First lady Jill Biden is the subject of a major takeout from Mattie Kahn for Harper’s Bazaar. Dr. Biden also is on the cover of the June issue.

Kahn writes, “For the past 18 months, Dr. Biden has maintained a schedule stacked like a Jenga tower. She has continued to teach her English and writing classes, making her the first presidential spouse ever to maintain her own career in addition to her duties in the East Wing. Her responsibilities for what she has called her ‘other job’ — attending events and calling attention to both the policies and priorities of the administration and to the causes that she’s championed, from education to support for military families to cancer research — squeeze around the school calendar. Papers are graded on Executive Foxtrot 1; speeches are reviewed after lesson plans are finalized. And then there are her friends, her children, her grandchildren, her relationship with her husband, her relationship with herself.”

The piece is rather glowing, but still worth a glance.

Odd reactions

Michael Sussman, Hillary Clinton’s campaign lawyer, was acquitted Tuesday of charges that he lied to the FBI. As CBS News’ Robert Legare wrote, “Sussmann was accused by special counsel John Durham — a holdover from the Trump administration — of hiding his ties with a technology executive and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign when he brought the allegations to then-FBI general counsel Jim Baker.”

CNN’s Marshall Cohen wrote, “The verdict is a major defeat for Durham and his Justice Department prosecutors, who have spent three years looking for wrongdoing in the Trump-Russia probe.”

It apparently didn’t sit well with Fox News either, based on some of the post-verdict reactions seen here and here. And Fox News’ Kayleigh McEnany said, “The D.C. jury pool. This is an area of our country where 76% of people in the District of Columbia are registered Democrat. This was a jury pool of 37 that was whittled down to a smaller number. But of those 37 jurors, there were many avowed Clinton supporters who said they had donated to the Clinton campaign. Some of those individuals weren’t chosen, but about a third of that jury pool was either a Clinton supporter or had strong feelings about the election, and prosecutors were very frustrated that they would not get a fair shake here. So I think this does raise questions on how fair of a shake you could be given in D.C. with a jury pool that does oftentimes weigh partisan in one direction.”

Was McEnany suggesting that the outcome of the jury trial was, essentially, not fair because the jury was predisposed to acquit Sussman?

Sports talk controversy

Last week, after a disappointing end for the University of Arkansas baseball team in the SEC Conference tournament, Razorbacks catcher Michael Turner made a comment about Arkansas fans. He said, “It’s not always that easy to play here. There’s a lot of people that are fans, some are good fans, some are not good fans. And if you read Twitter after the game, it can get in your mind a little bit. So we’re just trying to keep the circle tight and keep moving forward.”

Criticism of teams and players on Twitter is, indeed, a cesspool at times. Still, Turner’s comments weren’t that disrespectful of fans. By the way, Turner is a fifth-year senior who is in his first year at Arkansas after transferring from Kent State and that plays a role in this story. Apparently his comments about Arkansas fans didn’t go over well with ESPN Arkansas radio host Derek Ruscin.

Nothing wrong with pushing back on something an athlete says — and, as a former sports talk show radio host myself, I know that sometimes it’s easy to get fired up. In fact, being passionate is a part of the job. But Ruscin went a tad overboard.

Ruscin seemed to get personal, saying, “I’ll say it, and I wouldn’t say this about a young player, Michael Turner, he’s a fifth-year guy from Kent State, he’s a stupid ass, the catcher for the Arkansas Razorbacks.”

He was just getting warmed up. Ruscin added, “First of all, you’re not a Razorback, you’re a rental player and have sucked, so thanks for nothing. Secondly, as a rental player, you do not get to come in here and criticize this fan base, you stupid ass. Not a chance. The question was about the entire team, and you used the entire answer to take a swing at this fan base. You’re a disgrace, Michael Turner. You’re a disgrace! You should not get to wear that uniform again. What a loser. You know why they’re losing, because you’re a loser, and you’re the catcher. You’re in charge of this whole thing on the infield. You’re a loser and a disgrace. And you can’t get out of this program soon enough.”


Even his station thought it was too much. They put out a statement that said Ruscin was taking some time away from the show. They added his comments “went too far and did not meet our companies’ standard for quality content. We will further deal with this matter internally moving forward.”

Hiring news

  • The Washington Post has named Christine Armario the deputy editor of the America desk — which writes enterprise and major national breaking news stories. Before joining the Post, Armario worked at the Miami Herald and The Associated Press.
  • USA Today has added two columnists to its opinion staff. John Wood Jr. is a writer, podcaster and public speaker, as well as the national ambassador for Braver Angels — a grassroots, bipartisan organization dedicated to political depolarization. Ingrid Jacques had been a columnist and deputy editorial page editor at The Detroit News, where she spent the past 12 years as a member of the editorial board. Wood has already written his first piece: “Progressives push to cancel conservatives. Here’s how the right is fighting back.”

Media tidbits

ESPN’s Katie Barnes, left, interviewing swimmer Lia Thomas. (Courtesy: ESPN)

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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