Sandy Hook memorial

Erik Johannsen of Dover, Md., places stuffed animals at a memorial Monday, Dec. 24, 2012, to honor the 26 people killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn. Johannsen, a member of the Air Force in Dover and a volunteer firefighter, stopped to pay his respects on his way to be with family in New Hampshire. (John Woike/Hartford Courant/MCT)

On Dec. 14, 2012, Adam Lanza took the lives of 20 children and six adults before taking his life. Almost two months after the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, the story still remains a top contender in the media.

With the recent controversies surrounding state policies and gun control laws, communications associate professor Andrew Clark said gun issues are relevant now more than ever.

“I think that we tend to be a knee-jerk society in some respects that, when something happens, we tend to sort of react the opposite way,” Clark said. “People tend to not necessarily think through the issue — they just tend to react.”

Photography junior Chandler Wilde said too much media coverage of gun crime can lead to more of it. According to Science Direct, it is believed that repeated exposure to real-life violence may alter cognitive, affective and behavioral processes, possibly leading to desensitization.

“When some people see it on TV, they want to be covered like that too, and then they go and do the same thing again,” Wilde said. “It is a big deal, but to have it top story for over a month is not good.”

The media attention toward the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting bothers broadcasting junior Andre Hinton, too, but for different reasons.

“As far as the victims go, I think they should be left alone at this point,” Hinton said. “There’s been a lot of attention on the families, and I feel the families should be getting their space.”

Hinton said he especially did not like that news stations interviewed children. In January, news outlets such as CNN and NBC were openly criticized on social media for interviewing crying children. 

“If the kid’s finally out of that situation, they definitely don’t want to relive it,” Hinton said.

Interviewing children is no small matter, according to the FBI. The government agency website states that children cannot be approached like adults because doing so would adversely impact their statements. 

“Interviewing children is hard. They’re more sensitive and they’re emotionally scarred,” said broadcasting journalism junior Monica Davis. “I think there should be a good wait period. You need to give it at least two weeks before you interview a child after something that traumatic.”

Despite this, Davis believes that the story is still vital and important in today’s world.

“I think that’s a dominant story for any news network because it was about children,” she said. “I think it’s relevant to tell the public what happened.”

Clark said media has a strong influence on society.

“I think it’s important with an issue like this — an issue that has become very personal and volatile that you engage in a very civil debate, that both sides are allowed to express their issues,” he said. “I think that’s where the media can really help: by ensuring that their stories are fair, that they’re presenting both sides of the issue, that they’re not coming out in favor of one or the other.”

@dDUnn87

davidadunn@mavs.uta.edu

David Dunn is an aspiring filmmaker, critic, and analyst currently attending the University of Texas at Arlington, and writes for the newspaper, The Shorthorn.

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