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Newtown conspiracies reveal inept media

Brandon Lesko
Assoc. Opinion Editornewtown

For many Americans, the usual lightness of the 2012 holiday season was dimmed if not overshadowed by the events that unfolded on December 14, 2012. On that day in Newtown, Connecticut, 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School where he proceeded to murder 20 children and six adult staff before taking his own life. I’m sure we all know the story.
With that said, I would bet that many Americans, including students and faculty on this campus, have heard or read about the numerous conspiracy theories popping up to supplement the official story of what happened in Newtown. When such stories first came to my attention, I was appalled that someone would posit that not only were we lied to about major aspects of the story (i.e., multiple shooters, more guns than reported, and strange inconsistencies with witness and police reports), but that the whole event had been pre-planned and staged for television in the hopes that it would move the American people to push for tougher gun laws. Appalling.
However, as I spent nearly an entire day investigating these claims, I found that some details of the event and the “official narrative” don’t quite add up, or at least they overlook some rather important facts and firsthand reports by witnesses that any sensible person or journalist would not exclude, or would at least investigate. More troubling still is the fact that many news outlets began scrubbing stories from the Internet the day of and the day after the shooting that either had misleading information or that didn’t add up with CNN’s or the New York Time’s version of the truth.
Before you stop reading the article and decide to write me off as a conspiracy nut, you should know that I do not buy into the conspiracies about the Newtown shooting. I was not there nor do I have all the information necessary to make such a determination, but there is something very important to learn from what I refer to as, Newtown journalism.
Whether you believe in these theories or not is not the question here. The question, or perhaps the glaringly obvious takeaway from these theories, is that there must have been some terrible reporting for there to be so many inconsistencies. For millions of people to question and full-heartedly believe that the Newtown shooting was staged, or, at the very least, had several facts covered up, points towards a major failing of the media to explain and report this story to the public rather than towards a large segment of the population being crazy.
Newtown journalism exposes big problems with internet and cable news and the knee-jerk media. Today’s media is quick to publish, post, or broadcast any information they receive as a situation unfolds even if it later turns out to be untrue and could lead to backtracking and confusion. In the days of the newspaper, people had to wait until the evening edition, or God forbid, the morning paper to find out what happened yesterday, in detail.
Say the conspiracy theorists are dead wrong, you still can’t blame them for being distrustful, even outraged. They are drawing their conclusions from conflicting news reports, witness testimony, and in some cases video and photo evidence that has not been explained to the public or incorporated into news stories. If they are misinformed because of a mistake the media made in their haste to get to the bottom of the story, or more commonly, because they want to get the story up on the web as soon as possible, then it is a terrible thing indeed.
A journalist should have the facts and know the story before they report it, what Carl Bernstein called “the best obtainable version of the truth.” How can we not expect these theories to arise when the very nature of news today is not to give people a finished, well-reported product of journalism, but to grab a camera and take the audience along on the process of investigation no matter what wrong alley it leads us down?
On the other hand, if journalists are intentionally covering up aspects of the story, and not being honest to the public which they serve, then the system is broken. A democracy cannot flourish without freedom of information and freedom of the press. If the trust between the public and its press is broken then the democracy itself is in danger of being shattered. We must demand more accountability, thoroughness, and care from those whose first priority is speed instead of fact. When a tragedy such as the Newtown shooting occurs, it behooves the American public to demand the best of the press and of ourselves in weighing that information.