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Dear Media: Shut Up (please)

It's been about 24 hours since the terrible shooting incidents began at Virginia Tech. Let the second-guessing begin! Frankly, the second-guessing game began within hours of the incident, with headlines like "why weren't students notified sooner?" and the sort (of which CNN.com still has on their site).

As we've come to expect, journalists believe erroneously these days that they are subject-matter experts in all topics. Case in point, we watch ABC News in the morning. Today the Good Morning America (GMA) staff is in Blacksburg, VA, to cover the VT shootings in person. All good and fine, I suppose, since it should give them easier access for human interest stories. But, my, how arrogant and disrespectful they're being to the local authorities! Consider, for example, the literal interrogation that Diana Sawyer gave to the university President.

First thing this morning, before going on the air, Ms Sawyer sat down with the university president Charles W. Steger. Steger starts by making the fatal mistake of referring to the shooter in the second incident as "the second shooter". This gets Sawyer all spun-up with questions about the ongoing investigation, which Steger cannot discuss. Moreover, she hounds him mercilessly to get any information, such as whether or not there were two or more shooters, if these additional shooters are on the loose, etc. Steger does ok in trying to stick with the storyline, though he does admit that law enforcement (LE) has interviewed a person of interest and continue to monitor him.

Allow me to run down a few annoyances here... these are thoughts that I have on the inappropriate behavior of the media these days.

1) Premature and inappropriate calls for resignation... According to GMA, there have already been calls for Steger to resign. For what, I ask??? My gosh, folks, how is it that in a time of crisis in a truly unprecedented event that we should be so eager to demand this leader step down??? I don't hear you idiots demanding that Bush step down, and yet he's lied to us numerous times, sent far more than 33 US troops to their pointless death, and instigated anti-American hatred throughout the world. CALM DOWN, FOLKS!!! Let the investigation pursue its natural course. Allow this leader and his community to mourn and debrief. Once all the facts are in, if it appears that he screwed up, THEN AND ONLY THEN should you even be considering calls for his resignation. Sheesh. The next thing up will be the civil suits against VT for not keeping students safe, which the university will undoubtedly settle because it's cheaper than going to court. It's sad that people feel they have to blame someone other than the attacker for random acts of violence.

2) Communication to students of possibly isolated incidents (as originally thought)... According to Steger, they responded to the shooting in the dorm as a domestic violence case, which they believed was isolated. They began an investigation and sent out a notice only 2 hours after the fact when they had enough information to advise students. For all you naysayers and second-guessers out there, 2 hours is not all that long given a strange and confusing situation. Given that university communications are subject to the same bureaucracy that any public institution would face, I consider this to be fairly standard response time. AND LET US NOT FORGET... they did not necessarily have reason to believe that there was an imminent, ongoing threat to their campus. In fact, they believed that the attacker had fled the area entirely.

3) The media's attempts to violate the integrity of the investigation... Look, look, look! LE is trying to conduct an investigation, in which the victims and the attacker have rights, and the media is tripping over itself to get more information. Guess what?!? The public does NOT have the right to know everything just yet. The investigation MUST keep certain details secret for the time being. LET THE POLICE FINISH THEIR WORK - PLEASE!!!

4) The disrespect the media shows for a community in shock and mourning... I think the most appalling role of the media is interrogating the affected victims after a horrible incident... in this case, they just can't wait to chase those human interest stories, harassing families about the untimely deaths of their loved ones. Please, media, show some respect for the living and the dead.

Get a grip folks, and if you see the bloody media, tell them to go back to their cush offices in NYC where they belong. The do us a great disservice.


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