San Bernardino

Rich Galen
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Posted: Dec 03, 2015 10:01 AM
San Bernardino

First, it is difficult to do funny political writing while watching cable news' coverage of the horror in San Bernardino last night.

I have no insights about the shooting. I can draw no cosmic conclusions. I can offer no solutions.

I'm just tired of this happening, whether it's stabbings in Israel, a massacre in Paris, or shooters mowing down innocent people at a county building in California.

But, if we can't get into the minds of the crazy people who did the shooting, we can look at the way it was covered last night.

Watching the three press conferences held by the San Bernardino police officials was telling.

The two that were led by police chief Jarrod Burguan were excellent. He told the reporters what he knew - or at least what he wanted them to know - and if he didn't know - or didn't want the public to know - he simply said so.

The middle presser, led by a public affairs sergeant from the police department, was far different. She was not as well prepared as her boss and when she showed the slightest irritation at being forced to say "I don't know" six or seven times in a row, you could sense the tensions rising as the reporters moved toward the edge of losing their patience with her.

There is a lesson in this. People who are good at dealing with the press will rehearse. They are not rehearsing to lie, but they should rehearse exactly what Chief Burguan knew he was going to face: A lot of questions for which he had no answers.

Like any form of public speaking, the person doing the speaking has to take control of the microphone. You have to either be confident, or sell the fact that you are confident even if you're not.

We've all been in the audience, shifting uncomfortably in our seats, as we have watched someone on the stage who was clearly out of their class.

In the first hours of the network coverage, the story continued to move ahead. The panels of experts called in to discuss the options and possibilities had a continuing stream of new information to comment on.

This is far different than, say, an airliner missing for months on end with the same aviation experts going over the same material night after night:

Still missing, Anderson. Still don't know what happened, Rachel. Still can't find it, Sean.

We'll be back with more on the missing airplane after these messages.

But, for months, there was no more.

By the time you read this, the San Bernardino story will have moved beyond what we know at about 9:30 PM Eastern, which is two of the suspects were chased down and killed in their SUV. There may be a third shooter still on the loose. Fourteen people have been killed, and more than 17 have been injured.

At least part of the police reaction to the shootings was to take to Twitter to help residents in the area know what, if anything, they should be doing.

At one point the department Tweeted: "Please help Law Enforcement and stay clear of the area." They also used Twitter to tell reporters where to be and when:

By 9:30 last night the CNN panel had pretty much decided the shooting was an act of terrorism.

Rachel Maddow, on MSNBC, was explaining at the same time, that they were staying live with the coverage from California because it was not at all clear that the situation was stable.

On Fox, Megyn Kelly was interviewing a woman who was in the area at the Lighthouse for the Blind, but not in the buildings where the shootings took place.

The point is, each of the networks was working the story with sensitivity, and professionalism.

This one doesn't feel like "another shooting," as horrible as it may be to type those two words.

The true goal of terrorists is to destabilize society. If "they" can shoot and kill you at a seminar in a county building in Southern California, you can be shot and killed anywhere.

I'm feeling a little destabilized right now.