When It Comes To Sensible Gun Reform, Mainstream Media Chooses Martyrdom Over Reporting

Journalists have the power to promote real change. It's been done before. We need a lot more Upton Sinclairs, and a lot less Eric Bollings. And we need them now.
alison parker adam ward

My brilliant younger sister also happens to be a radio broadcast personality in the Chicago market. After the horrific August 26 on-air murder that left two local journalists from WDBJ7-TV in rural Virginia dead, she observed and asked:

“I have always felt the media only participates in the sensational aspect of gun violence. It’s the topic of the week until all the news has ‘broken’ and after that you get a sporadic update if any new information comes (evidence, trials, sentencing, etc.). Well, this lunatic used the media as a target AND a platform to showcase how easy it is to combine lax gun laws and disturbed delusions of fame into tragedy. So what now?”

Indeed. What now? Well once again, it seems not much. Apparently the NRA, our nation’s legislators and yes, even the media are content with the status quo, with the United States’ long, unchallenged reign as the leading producer of public mass shootings. If innocent little children like the ones attending school in Newton, Massachusetts get gunned down in the absurd assertion of Second Amendment rights at the expense of all others (such as the right to life), well those are the breaks.

Unfortunately, Andy Parker learned in the hardest way possible that the unchecked armament of John Q. Public just isn’t tolerable anymore. His 24-year-old daughter Allison was one of the victims in last month’s Virginia tragedy. A promising television reporter, Allison and her cameraman, 27-year-old Adam Ward, were gunned down by Vester Flanagan, a disgruntled former station employee with a history of anger and mental issues. At the outset of an unthinkable grieving process, Andy Parker had strong words for the interested lobby groups who cynically capitalize on fear to stoke a gun sale agenda. On August 27, he told CNN:

“I am going to take it on…I can promise you and the American people, I am not going to rest until I get something done here…I know the NRA. Their position is going to be, and I can hear it now, ‘if they were carrying, this never would have happened.’…If Allison and Adam had been carrying an AK-47 strapped around their waist, it wouldn’t have made a difference. They couldn’t have seen this coming, so I don’t want to hear that argument from the NRA.”

It’s a shame that the parents of slain media personalities are willing to do the Sisyphean work of trying to break through America’s hardline “guns first” mentality, while members of the mass media are themselves unwilling to ask and report on the truth. And the reality is that we have had a collective bag over our heads for far too long. Gun ownership is enshrined by the Constitution. I get that. But that does not equate to a sacrosanct inability to approach it with anything resembling common sense. Why can’t we all agree that when one is working, at school, driving down the road, running a marathon or performing any other run-of-the-mill task, being slain by a gun-toting maniac should not be a factor?

A grieving father called on the members of his beloved daughter’s profession to stop their salivating ambulance chasing and step up for reform. It may just save their lives. Parker said, “I am challenging the media, this is one of your own…It’s a great story for a couple of days and then it goes to the back burner and nothing happens.”

Joining that call is my aforementioned sister, who said, “The media is right there, microphone in hand in the face of politicians, and they don’t demand shit. Reporters go rogue and hard hitting all the time on subjects, but not when it comes to the issue of gun control.”

Journalists have the power to promote real change. It’s been done before. We need a lot more Upton Sinclairs, and a lot less Eric Bollings. And we need them now.

Becky Sarwate is the current President of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association, founded in 1885, as well as Recording Secretary for the National Federation of Press Women. She is a national award-winning journalist, blogger, newsletter editor and theater critic. Becky lives in Chicago with her partner Bob and their menagerie of pets. Keep up with her at beckysarwate.com.
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