BERKOWITZ: A campus in grief distracted by media attack


BERKOWITZ: A campus in grief distracted by media attack


By:Adan Berkowitz
Posted: 4/18/07

In the wake of the tragedy at Virginia Tech, there's going to be a lot of people asking why this happened, or what could have been done to prevent this or keep it from happening in the future. I think pundits in the media and people on both sides of the gun debate would be wise to refrain from using the shooting to further their agendas. There's going to be a lot of people on both sides frothing at the mouth, saying this could have been prevented if only some of the students had been armed or if guns were made illegal or other such nonsense. Any group who tries to spin this into a crusade against violent media or for gun advocacy or for its own goals should be ripped apart by the press. Unfortunately, the press usually latches onto this kind of sensationalism and frames it as a crusade for some issue, instead of treating it as it really is: a monumental tragedy.

As a journalism student and a person who believes in general good taste, I have to say I was nauseated while watching events unfold on the news, not only because of what happened, but because of the way the media seemed to be wringing every drop they could from the story. With 24-hour news coverage, this comes as no surprise. For hours, networks would loop a 10-second clip of blurry cell phone footage, followed by mostly baseless speculation, followed by a parade of talking heads ready to blame the shooting on everything from video games to rap music. Jerks like Geraldo Rivera talk their mouth off even without any new information about the story. The media is relentless when it comes to stirring up a frenzy. We can't even wait until the dead are buried before all sorts of scaremongering like Fox News's brilliant article: "Experts: Colleges Ripe for Attacks." CNN ran some pretty tasteless stuff, too, like "Students Slaughtered." I know that "if it bleeds it leads," but you can almost smell the media sniffing blood like sharks do in the water. At least wait before all the facts are in before people like Anderson Cooper bring on some idiot who says this was caused by Grand Theft Auto. I can only imagine how the kids at Virginia Tech must feel, being swarmed by reporters with cameras and microphones trying to capture a sound byte of their grief.

All the facts haven't been released yet, but no matter what anyone says in hindsight, the sad truth is that nothing really could have prevented this. Virginia Tech officials are most likely going to catch enormous amounts of flak and lawsuits and probably lose their jobs, but who knows if there was anything they could have done differently. I have a feeling there's going to be a lot of sensationalist articles about college safety forthcoming in the media, and I sincerely hope that colleges don't turn into locked-down fortresses because of one incident. Safety is important, but realistically there's only so much that can be done to prevent something like this, and we shouldn't believe that by insulating students further we can avert every incident of violence. All the metal detectors and random searches in the world aren't going to stop a determined nutcase.

I don't want to turn this into a debate about civil liberties, because this isn't about that. But people and officials are going to be scrambling to try and prepare for every contingency and start locking things up because everyone feels helpless and wants to think there was something they could have done. We want to be able to find reason in this, to view the shooting as part of an overarching trend, a result of our violent culture or our attitudes about gun control or whatever, because the truth -- that there isn't a reason, that there's no definite thing that would have stopped this -- is hard to accept.

My condolences go out to everyone at Virginia Tech, and I can't imagine how they are dealing with this. Hopefully the media will cut them some slack and will give them some time to grieve before they swoop in and start throwing blame on everyone except the guy who did it. Those kids whose lives and dreams were cut short are what's important, not your agenda.

Adan Berkowitz, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, is a weekly columnist for The Daily Free Press.


Original Source:<a href=>The Daily Free Press - April 18, 2007</a>


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Adan Berkowitz, “BERKOWITZ: A campus in grief distracted by media attack,” The April 16 Archive, accessed July 18, 2024,