Saturday, December 15, 2012

The shooting yesterday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut is one of the most tragic events in our lifetime. As you know by now, a 20-year-old man shot and killed his mother, then drove to the school and murdered 20 children--all ages six or seven--and six adult staff members, then killed himself. Unlike many major news stories in the past, I've kept myself from being overly consumed with the reports on the 24-hour news networks and websites, largely because I feel many of them and their reporters are exploiting this tragedy. Can we give victims' families some time to grieve and try to understand this horrific event before we try to get "exclusive" interviews? Not to mention the countless inaccurate and erroneous details that were published during the hours immediately following the shooting, as media outlets raced to be the first to report. I've also been turned off by similar exploitation and recklessness by people on social media, particularly on Twitter.

When I was on Twitter this afternoon, however, I learned that The Herald newspaper in Rock Hill had placed an advertisement for a gun store on the same page as a story on the Newtown shooting in today's paper. The half-page ad is for a Christmas special on guns at Nichols Store in Rock Hill, and it ran on an inside page where the Newtown story had continued from the front page.

Credit: @DianneG

Paul Osmundson, the editor of The Herald, apologized around midday with a statement posted online, and I assume that same statement will appear in tomorrow's print edition. Below is an excerpt.
"In Saturday's Herald, an advertisement for guns was placed on a page near stories and a photograph about the tragic school shooting in Connecticut. Please be assured that this was neither intentional nor the fault of the advertiser. Advertisements are usually placed days before the newspaper lands on your doorstep. In this case, the advertisement in question was placed Thursday morning. But we at The Herald should have recognized the unfortunate juxtaposition of the advertisement with stories and a photograph about gun violence."
The newspaper apologized and took full responsibility, and I think that should suffice. But what began as an inadvertent placement of an ad, should actually serve as a moment of reflection and introspection for us. That ad, and the fact that it was promoting a special on guns for Christmas, epitomizes just how large a part of American society guns have become. In coming days and weeks, there'll be disagreements over whether this country needs more gun control laws. And regardless of what side of the debate you're on, you can be fairly certain that nothing will be done and we'll, unfortunately, be facing another tragedy all too soon.


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