The victims ranged in age from 5 to 72. The gunman wore tactical clothing and used a military-style rifle. The shooting left 26 people dead. Once again, cable stations and newspaper front pages are filled with reports from a horrific mass shooting in America.
The carnage at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs comes just over a month after a gunman killed 58 people in Las Vegas. CNN’s Saeed Ahmed notes that two of the five deadliest mass shootings in modern American history have occurred in the past 35 days.
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“Mental health is the problem here,” President Trump said from Japan. “This isn’t guns situation. We could go into it, but it’s a little bit soon to go into it.” That common refrain—that the hours and days immediately following a mass shooting are not the time to politicize the tragedy—is, of course, an attempt to avoid ever having a serious debate about gun control. “If now is too soon to debate gun control, how long must Americans wait?,” asked The New York Times’s editorial board. In an arrestingly simple demonstration of the timing question, the Times posted clocks counting the days, hours, minutes, and seconds since mass shootings in America stretching back to Sandy Hook in 2012.
On the ground in Texas, a team of reporters from the San Antonio Express-News and mySA.com mobilized to cover the mass shooting, interviewing people who had seen several generations of their families impacted. National outlets called upon their journalists in the area to provide initial coverage, and flew in anchors to report from the scene.
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For Sutherland Springs, a day of trauma and tears https://t.co/oJ79rjdHap
— mySA (@mySA) November 6, 2017
In what’s become a disturbing aspect of any major breaking news story, BuzzFeed gathered examples of hoaxes that circulated on the internet as coverage of the shooting unfolded. Google searches for the killer’s name returned a bevy of conspiracy theories and false information, a reminder that the hyperspeed news cycle brings with it loads of misinformation when news breaks.
The Daily Beast’s headline on its main story about the shooting read, “Deadliest Church Shooting in American History Kills at Least 26.” As CJR Senior Editor Cory Schouten noted on Twitter, “We’re now ranking church shootings.”
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Below, more on coverage of another American tragedy.
- ‘The country’s newest mass horror’: The New York Times’s front-page story from Sutherland Springs has an overview of the tragedy and notes that no motive has yet been established.
- Scenes from the pursuit: The Washington Post interviewed Johnnie Langendorff, a local citizen who pursued the gunman as he tried to escape the scene of the shooting.
- Mobilizing local reporters: CNN’s Brian Stelter spoke with San Antonio Express-News editor Mike Leary about how the paper scrambled to cover the shooting and completely revamped its planned Monday edition.
- Evergreen story: The Onion once again had reason to post its mass shooting article that begins: “In the hours following a violent rampage in Texas in which a lone attacker killed 27 individuals and seriously injured several others, citizens living in the only country where this kind of mass killing routinely occurs reportedly concluded Sunday that there was no way to prevent the massacre from taking place.”
Other notable stories
- More on this in tomorrow’s newsletter: The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists is working with reporters on six continents to report on the Paradise Papers, a trove of documents that show “how how deeply the offshore financial system is entangled with the overlapping worlds of political players, private wealth and corporate giants.”
- The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan looks back at a year of Trump coverage. Her verdict: “There’s been great accountability journalism, but a very poor signal-to-noise ratio.”
- The New York Times’s gender editor Jessica Bennett examines “how the Weinstein scandal unleashed a tsunami” in a way that past watershed moments in sexual harassment coverage didn’t.
- For CJR, Ross Barkan laments the decimation of local news in New York City. “The problem,” he writes, “is there are fewer reporters and more beats going uncovered.”
- Big hire by the Wall Street Journal: Gretchen Morgenson, a veteran New York Times reporter, is headed to the Journal’s investigative team.