Having spent most of my life in one branch or the other of the news media, I often find myself in the position of defending some part of it for this-that-or-the-other. Not today.

CNN, MSNBC, FOX … with minor assists from CBS, NBC and ABC television… have acted so unprofessionally in so much of their “reporting” in these days following the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the murders of six others that I can only say “a pox on all their houses.” For the first time in my life, I turned them all off and went to the Internet. That’s a Hell of an admission for a former reporter but it’s true.

The baseless speculation, “facts” without attribution, rumor reporting and specious comments about what might have been or could have been or should have been were … and are … without merit. Today, four days after the shooting, all sorts of names and factors are being dragged into the “reporting” that have no connection with any of it.

I’m far from a Sarah Palin water carrier, but to link any of her web sites or any previous comments on anything to the Giffords story were ludicrous. Making speculative jumps from hospital to talk radio or any portion of the Tea Party movement have been just plain irresponsible. The seeming need to report the tragedy and then pin blame on someone or anyone or anything has proven to me only that these people who call themselves “reporters” have a long way to go to earn the title without the quotation marks.

Many, many factors passed on as “news” are symptoms of our too-violent society. But they are not the cause for anything even remotely connected with the Gifford tragedy. A sick, deranged person, acting on God only knows what stimulus, did what he did for reasons yet to be determined. It’s as simple as that. It’s as complex as that. Anything reported going beyond those details is speculation and should be labeled so.

Few of us are qualified to examine the shootings and determine … with any accuracy … why they happened. Yet the media is full of conjecture masquerading as fact. That is wrong.

I could take up a lot of space here with my list of things I think contributed to this and other violent stories across this country in recent years. You’ve probably got one, too. Unbridled hate, a societal coarseness that permeates our lives, a tolerance for violence in all aspects of daily living, lies being broadcast or otherwise transmitted as truth, the wrong weapons available to the wrong people, a reluctance to hold people accountable for their actions or speech. And on and on. And on.

While all of those things may … or may not … be emblematic of our society, they are just supposition on my part and I’m happy to label them such. But in recent days, those sorts of things have been part of the “reporting” of the Tucson shootings. That is irresponsible, unprofessional and wrong.

Former presidential advisor David Gergen of the Harvard Kennedy Center said it best last weekend. And I paraphrase. We need time before we start casting about for causes or solutions. We need to see what shakes out of the examinations of the shooter’s life, what law enforcement investigations turn up and some distance from emotion to deal with the facts as they become known.

That says it all. And, aside from hard, provable facts to come, that’s all that should be said. Or, more especially, reported.

Like you, I pray for Rep. Giffords and the others wounded in the massacre. Whether wounded in body, mind or spirit. I am hopeful that trained minds and reasoned examinations will uncover more of the facts.

Our national media has not shown itself well in this difficult story. It has demonstrated, once again, that some of the enmity with which it is regarded by the general public is well-earned. This fascination with “infotainment” in the guise of news is not healthy.

Some journalistic policing and policy changing needs to be done from the street reporter to the top echelons of our media empires. It needs to be done from the inside before others try to do so from the outside.

Comments are closed.