Thursday, April 19, 2007

Mourn today, Debate Tomorrow

The Virginia Tech shootings this week made more than just gruesome headlines. It has resurrected the issue of gun control laws in the U.S. and, no doubt, there will be ongoing debate of this heated issue on both sides of government policy.

I’m a self-professed news junkie (occupational hazard) when it comes to plane crashes, school shootings or mass destruction of any kind. You name it -- I have an insatiable appetite for getting all the facts. For me, it’s about understanding how this can happen (I still don’t comprehend murder-suicide school shootings) and, more importantly, how we can prevent this from ever happening again. As a parent, a school massacre like this hits home to me in a very personal way.

The next night, I watched hours of television coverage from various stations including CNN, CBS, ABC and BBC World News. I flipped constantly to gather as much data as I could. When I turned to CBS, I saw Katie Couric interviewing President Bush and the First Lady. “Well,” I thought to myself, “this should be interesting.” I had just watched the President’s address to the university that he gave earlier that day and thought he did a fine job in his attempt to console a grieving community. His speech was eloquent and had some strong faith messages which is what I think that community needed to hear from the President at that moment.

Couric asked a few questions to the President about his message to the university and then, out of nowhere, she tried to goad the President into a discussion about gun control. Huh? What? Thirty-two innocent victims lost their lives and left thousands grieving the world over, and you want to spark a debate about gun control the next day after the shootings? I was floored! Not only was it neither time nor place for that question, but it was clearly inappropriate to bring up a gun policy discussion when there is so much healing to be done.

This horrific crime will no doubt spur a debate about the second amendment (as did Columbine) and it’s probably happening right now in every corner of the United States. But the next day was clearly a day of mourning and it fell to the President to act as the nation’s consoler, not an arbiter on gun laws.

I like Katie Couric and think she has found a home as anchor on CBS News. But I would have liked to see a more soulful dialogue between her and the President and the First Lady without her having to resort to a tactless question about gun control. Obviously, even the most rigid gun laws would not have prevented a lunatic assassin from carrying out his rampage this week.

Bush declined to answer the gun policy question. And rightfully so.

Let us mourn and remember these innocent victims and honour them the best way we can.

We can dispute the second amendment another day.


Sarah Anderson said...

Respectfully, I disagree. I think an integral part of the mourning process when the unthinkable happens is to ask why? Why her, why them, why now? Part of the healing process is finding out what happens, but is there really a socially dictated time before that can happen? I would argue that most people start wanting to find out right away and if those discussions are going on in every living room across the U.S., is it really so wrong for Couric to begin a valid (albeit seemingly never ending) debate on gun control? If not the day after, if not the minute after, then when?

Christine Smith said...

Last week, TVO's The Agenda aired "How Are The Media Doing?" which examined the role of the media--mostly the broadcast media--in the wake of the Virginia Tech and Don Imus stories. More than one of the panelists on this excellent show made the point that stations like CBS, NBC, CNN, etc. are driven by ratings. So, Katie's question was likely fuelled by this agenda. Panelists also pointed out longtime journalists now have to contend, and sometimes compete with, "citizen journalism."

Julie Rusciolelli said...

Sarah, please disagree! The last thing I want is my blog to be some kind of Julie "love fest." I'm not sure if there is a timeframe best suited to debate the ongoing gun laws, but to me, personally speaking, I would have preferred more coverage of the victims, their families and the lives they led ... than to profile the nut case that did them in and debate as to why? To me gun control is a huge and never ending issue, but I would have preferred it that media that focused on the students and faculty affected by this tragedy and not the policy debate. As for ratings Christine, I think you're right .. it's all about that isn't it? How sad indeed ...

snoop said...

Julie. Bush used the V-Tech shootings to unequivovally state his support for NRA-style gun freedom, the very same day of the shootings. He may have avoided it with Katie, but he threw a bone to the gun lovers no less.