On March 21, 2005, a young man who attended high school on a Chippewa Indian reservation in Red Lake, Minn., killed nine people, including five students and a teacher, before finally turning the gun on himself.
Media outlets such as CNN and Fox News have touted this event as the worst school shooting since the Columbine incident of 1999.
But that’s just about the only thing I’ve heard about this horrible tragedy. Instead of shedding light on this disturbing trend in American schools, the media seemed to be more concerned with the legal battles surrounding Terri Schiavo’s right to live and die as she pleased.
When the Columbine shootings occurred, I was a sophomore in high school not particularly concerned with the news, but I remember being inundated with new video clips from Columbine High School every five minutes or so, with commentary from local news anchors in between the clips.
Every local channel I turned to was focused on covering the small town’s terror and disbelief that something so terrible could be happening right in their own backyard.
Since then, school shootings seem to have become less and less shocking to the American public, meriting less and less media coverage. Even when the media rank the Minnesota shootings on a level with Columbine, the fight to save one woman’s life in a small Florida town garners much more news coverage than the grisly deaths of nine innocent people and one troubled teen’s suicide.
Why should the recent school shooting be less important than the incident six years ago in Colorado?
Almost as many people were killed, and the victims included members of the community, not just students and faculty.
Also, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the Columbine shooters, killed 13 people between the two of them. Jeff Weise, the shooter in Minnesota, killed nine people on his own. Imagine what it might have been like if he had had an accomplice with a gun.
I’m not attempting to say that Schiavo’s life is unimportant. But I’m troubled that we as Americans have become so desensitized to mass killings that a tragedy like this doesn’t get the coverage it deserves.
While it’s true that at first the reservation restricted media coverage, Floyd Jourdain Jr, chairman of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, lifted those restrictions and spoke personally with the media. He also allowed the media to speak with survivors. Even then, the event was minimally covered.
Isn’t it the media’s responsibility to shed light on disturbing trends in our society?Shouldn’t they be concerned with lives that have ended — especially young lives — as well as lives that are struggling to continue?
I applaud the media’s determination to cover the intricacies of the Schiavo case; however, now the coverage has devolved into sensationalist stories about her physical state, not human rights issues.
I think the media’s focus should have shifted to the Minnesota shootings long ago.
Julie C. Vossler, The News Record, University of Cincinnati.