Howard Kurtz: Tragedy brings out best, worst of media
In the fragmentary accounts that followed Friday's horrifying massacre at a Connecticut school, some news organizations, following in the tracks of social media, managed to identify the wrong man as the shooter.
And then television provided a platform for the instantaneous finger-pointing and point-scoring that all too often follows such shootings.
I am conflicted when I watch the instant network specials, led by top anchors and featuring theme music and fancy logos, as I did after Columbine, after Virginia Tech, after Tucson, after Aurora. Of course they want to devote time and resources to a major national story. But it also feels at times like a branding exercise, an effort to grab ratings share after a heartbreaking event.
I am conflicted as well at watching some journalists interview children who saw the carnage. I understand their value as eyewitnesses, but these are young kids who had just been through a terrible trauma. To me, at least, it feels exploitative. Some organizations, including CNN, require the parents' permission, but it is not clear that all outlets followed such a policy in the scramble that followed the shootings.