Media Coverage of VT Tragedy Irresponsible

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Media Coverage of VT Tragedy Irresponsible

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By Tammesia Green

Following the massacre that occurred at Virginia Tech University on April 16, many have come to question their own safety at universities across the country. The profile of a school shooter, once narrowed to a lonely white male high-school student with a fascination with and open access to guns, was quickly re-examined as we discovered the shooter to be 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui. But before the news had been released that the shooter was Asian, the question on everyone's mind was whether this catastrophe could have been prevented. This question is a good one, and should be debated, but reflecting on the length of time the press devoted to this subject was unsettling for me.


I remember going to class the morning of the shooting and hearing news reports that two people had been shot at a Virginia Tech dormitory. Upon my return five hours later I was shocked to see the death toll had escalated to 33. Immediately, I wanted to know what had happened and if the killer had been caught. Watching the news, all I could find were reporters asking questions like, "Why wasn't the school placed on lockdown? What time was the first e-mail sent to students? Why wasn't more done to prevent this tragedy?"


It became clear that I would not learn anything about what actually took place on the campus that could account for the casualty numbers rising; I had to resort to the Internet to try to make sense of all that was happening. After getting a clear account, I was upset at the amount of time the network news channels devoted to placing blame on officials at Virginia Tech—only, the "placing blame" was not seen for what it was. Instead, it was promoted as good investigative journalism.


I understand that it is the job of a journalist to ask the hard questions and uphold a level of accountability toward officials. However, I found that the questions posed by reporters in press conferences regarding Virginia Tech were not necessarily out of line, but a result of constant criticism of their inability to question authority in high-stakes situations.


Past disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the logic behind going to war with Iraq played their roles in the types of questions posed to Virginia Tech President Charles Steger. These questions were simply a ploy to preemptively avoid any backlash from the public for not addressing accountability.


Following the invasion of Iraq and never finding weapons of mass destruction, the public began to demand that journalists not be afraid to question authority and command answers from high-ranking officials. Hurricane Katrina allowed for reporters to regain some credibility by analyzing slow relief efforts and the lack of preparation from the government. It is no surprise that in order to keep credibility and uphold the public's faith in reporters, journalists continued to grow a backbone and demanded answers from those in power.


The word "accountability" is ultimately what forced the media to focus on how administrators screwed up and not the shooter. But accountability is not to be placed on school administrators and campus police when the act was really the work of one man, and only he can be blamed. Real investigative journalism would have been to expose the motives of Cho, not debate whether an e-mail should have been sent earlier or been more detailed. Even as students from the Virginia Tech campus were being interviewed and asked if their administration at the university should have done more, the look of "Are you really asking me this now?" ran across most of their faces. They, like me, could not understand why their administrators were being harassed as if they made the events unfold, and not Cho.


There is no way administrators at Virginia Tech could have predicted that a domestic dispute incident would be cause for the closing of an entire university. Anyone who thinks they would have had the notion to suspend classes and not think of the first attack as an isolated incident is thinking in the context of hindsight. Colleges enroll large quantities of students, equivalent to the population of some U.S. cities. Just like a city, Virginia Tech did not shut down when evidence of a homicide was discovered.


It is nice to want to believe that our college campuses are the last step before entering the real world, and are therefore void of the many threats society holds. But evil does exist and it knows no bounds. This evil of one individual is the only factor that should matter in evaluating who is accountable for the Virginia Tech massacre.

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Original Source:<a href=http://www.newuniversity.org/showArticle.php?id=5789>New University - April 30, 2007</a>


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Tammesia Green

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New University

Date

2007-08-19

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Sara Hood

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Zachary Gale <newueic@gmail.com>

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eng

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Tammesia Green, "Media Coverage of VT Tragedy Irresponsible," in The April 16 Archive, Item #1142, http://april16archive.org/items/show/1142 (accessed August 30, 2014).