Everyone can imagine the horror of a madman shooting up an elementary school, especially the horror of losing your six-year-old in the melee. But at some point, the news media's wallowing in Newtown reminds one of Don Henley's satirical song "Dirty Laundry," and how the anchors' eyes gleam through plane-crash news because "it's interesting when people die; we love dirty laundry."
The "O" word that defines the media at times like these isn't "objective." It's "opportunistic."
To be sure, the "news" manufacturers aren't hoping for a school shooting. But that doesn't mean they aren't ready to exploit it. Newsweek columnist Anna Quindlen was explicit back in 1999: ""Perhaps it will take one more school shooting to move the majority of Americans into a position more powerful than that of the NRA. Perhaps it will take one more school shooting to move us from people who support gun control to people who vote it."
A new Media Research Center study reviewed a sample of 216 gun-policy stories on ABC, CBS and NBC in the first month after Newtown, from the Dec. 14 shooting through the morning after President Obama's Feb. 16 speech pushing new gun control proposals. The number is instructive. That's not 216 stories in a month on Newtown. That's 216 stories just about the policy "solution" -- more gun control.
There are zero stories tilting toward a "solution" of curbing violence in TV and movies. That's because the TV networks show violent scenes nightly and are owned by companies with movie studios that profit from violent scenes. Try finding the word "violence" next to "movies" or "television" in a post-Newtown story on the TV networks where it isn't a casual afterthought.
The First Amendment is treated as sacred; the Second Amendment as profane.
As one might suspect, stories advocating more gun control dominated. But "outnumbered" is an understatement. They smothered stories tilting against gun control by 99 to 12, or more than 8 to 1.
It's easy to arrive at that results when anti-gun sound bites were aired almost twice as frequently as gun rights sound bites (228 to 134). When the Big Three network "news" operations sought out guests for interviews, the tilt was 26 to 7.
CBS won the month for being the most shamelessly tilted, with 44 anti-gun stories to just two with a gun-rights emphasis and 37 in the neutral zone. NBC was "best" with a slant of 26 to 5, and 43 neutral stories. Let's hope none of these people would assert that they're "fair and balanced" when absolutely everyone can smell the strong liberal coffee they're making.