Staff Columnist

No, the media doesn't love mass shootings

Irresponsible claim strips journalists of humanity

National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch speaks Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference at National Harbor, Maryland. “Many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it,” Loesch asserted. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch speaks Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference at National Harbor, Maryland. “Many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it,” Loesch asserted. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
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I cannot believe I have to write this, but here we are.

Attempting to discredit the media is not a novel concept for politicians and their ilk. That has been in the political playbook since long before yours truly was born, much less covering politics as a reporter.

But it seems that effort has been amplified lately, and it took a particularly ugly turn last week.

Such an accusation strips journalists of their basic humanity, although I understand that is what some people want for political gain.

- Erin Murphy

Dana Loesch, the National Rifle Association’s national spokeswoman, said during her remarks Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference that “legacy media love mass shootings.”

She was talking about the national gun control debate that once again has resumed in the wake of the latest U.S. mass shooting — 17 people, most of them students, shot and killed Feb. 14 at a Florida high school.

Loesch said the media loves mass shootings because they deliver good ratings.

“Many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it,” Loesch said. “Now I’m not saying that you love the tragedy. But I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying, white mothers are ratings gold to you and many in the legacy media in the back” of the room at the convention.

Even Loesch’s qualification — not that the media loves the tragedy of mass shooting, but that we love the ratings bump they provide — is beyond the pale.

(By the way, this assumes TV news ratings increase after a mass shooting. They may, but I was unable to find any reliable data to show it.)

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So here I am, writing to assure our readers that no, the media does not love mass shootings. For any reason.

Such an accusation strips journalists of their basic humanity, although I understand that is what some people want for political gain.

The evening of Dec. 12, 2012, I wrote on Facebook something that I’m going to share with you. That day, a gunman killed 26 people, including 20 6- and 7-year-olds. My daughter was 6 years old at the time, and I was working at the newspaper in Dubuque.

This is what I wrote:

“I couldn’t keep my eyes off the news coverage all day at work. It probably wasn’t my most productive day. I talked with colleagues as the information kept pouring in, expressing shock and trying to make sense of it all. I shook my head a lot. More than once I had to fight back tears.

“When I got home, I did the only thing I could for those families in Connecticut who are hurting so badly right now. I did something they no longer can: I enjoyed a night with my complete and healthy family.

“(My wife, daughter and I) did our annual driving tour of the city to look at Christmas lights. We went to Murphy Park and then all around town. When we got home, (my daughter) and I played a few games on the Wii. It was a really nice family evening.

“(At bedtime my daughter) gave me a hug and playfully squeezed me tightly around the neck. She joked about how she was choking me. I told her I didn’t care, and to squeeze me as tight as she wanted.

“Then, after (my wife and daughter) went to bed, I sat in silence in my favorite chair in the living room, and I cried. I cried because there is no way to even begin to measure how horrific is this tragedy. I cried because there is no way that anyone can ever make those families whole again. I cried for those sweet little children.

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“Finally, I sat down at the computer and wrote this; for no other reason than because for me, writing can be an outlet, a way to get things off my chest. Maybe I can at least accomplish that, leaving only the pain in my heart.”

And just so you all know, and just so you know, Dana Loesch, the next morning I did not check our single-copy sales numbers.

Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government. His email address is erin.murphy@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

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