Many Media Mistakes on Newtown Reporting: The New Normal?


As the Newtown, Ct., horror unfolded last Friday, dozens of news sources reported a striking element of the story: that Nancy Lanza, mother of shooter Adam Lanza, was a teacher at the school where her son killed 26 people before killing himself, the Washington Post reports. This account persisted — in news reporting and in conversation — and seemed to fill in a critical element of the tragedy: a motive. She was not a teacher, a substitute or a teacher's aide at Sandy Hook Elementary School, as some reported. Other accounts said incorrectly that she had been killed at the school along with her students.

As the story made the rounds, TV commentators speculated that Adam Lanza acted out of rage toward his mother and had transferred his murderous impulses toward the innocent lives under her care. “When you think about the details of the crime, he began by shooting his mother in the face, taking her weapon and then destroying everything precious to her, her colleagues and her children, and then killing himself,” columnist Charles Krauthammer said on Fox News. The error appears to have originated with an Associated Press report that “At least one parent said Lanza's mother was a substitute teacher at the school.” Then CBS reported that Lanza’s mother was a teacher and that many of the victims were her students. The number of errors that grew out of the events in Newtown suggests “we're dealing with a new normal in terms of what happens in major events,” said Craig Silverman, who writes Regret the Error, a blog about reporting mistakes.

Comments are closed.