The Slatest

Newtown Bee: “Please Stay Away From The Victims”

Mourners leave from Honan funeral home after attending the funeral for Jack Pinto, 6, one of the victims of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting

Photo by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images.

The stunning tragedy of the school shooting in Connecticut on Friday has put Newtown in the center of a national search for information and understanding. That’s creating some tension in the community, as some ask journalists to give privacy to those in mourning. Among those voices? The local Newtown Bee.

The local weekly posted the following message to Facebook and Twitter today:

On behalf of the entire staff of The Bee - we are imploring ALL our colleagues and journalists to PLEASE STAY AWAY FROM THE VICTIMS. We acknowledge it is your right to try and make contact, but we beg you to do what is right and let them grieve and ready their funeral plans in peace.

The post already has nearly 3,800 likes.

For more context, Poynter interviewed Shannon Hicks and John Voket of the Bee. Hicks took the now ubiquitous photograph at the scene of the shooting depicting schoolchildren, eyes closed, walking in a line hand-to-shoulder away from the building. Voket discussed what it’s like to report on a tragedy happening in your own community:

“We operate a little differently because our job is to take care of the community so we were inside helping to comfort victims and trying to provide human support without necessarily making reporting the number one priority,” Voket said. “The publisher came down to comfort some of the families a little later in the day.”

Connecticut-based editor Megan Greenwell of ESPN Magazine flagged that quote on her personal blog, where she noted the “striking” difference between local and national coverage of the tragedy: “And that makes sense: The Bee and Courant and WNPR are for Connecticut. Everything else is for interested outsiders. You cover something differently when it’s yours.”  

There’s been some push-back on coverage of the shootings from national outlets, too, albeit somewhat self-consciously. Slate’s Justin Peters noted some of the tension between a community in mourning and the journalists who want their stories in his post from the town on Friday. Meanwhile, over at PBS, Hari Sreenivasan has written a reflective post from the perspective of a journalist parachuting into the town to cover the tragedy.