So I am going to vent a little bit today. I’m going to vent about the press and how the press reports on “breaking news” items. It’s not going to be very favorable to the press so if you are a member of the press, or have some sympathy for the press you might just want to move on to the next link in your favorites list.

Wednesday for me was not just a tragedy involving the town of Bailey, a lunatic gunman and the state and local police.

For me the memories I have of this event will always include how I viewed the press and the reporting of the event.

A few observations:

When I first got from my work location to the Baily Post Office, where I had to park since the road was already jammed with cars parked on both sides of Hwy 285, until I got to the Sheriff’s office, which was maybe a mile and a half down the road, I probably passed a dozen reporters conducting interviews with the local families.

In general these reporters were conducting their interviews right beside the road. The typical setup was as follows: A large van or truck parked alongside the road, usually in a pull off area such as a local restaurant. A large camera would be set up on a heavy-duty tripod with a camera person operating the camera. Most of them were pointed towards the school, even though the school was hidden by curves in the canyon from the interview location. In front of the camera was usually a reporter with a microphone in one hand and a cell phone in the other. If the reporter was not interviewing a person, they were yelling into their cell phone (reception is pretty poor).

In several cases I had to walk either IN the road (which had heavy police traffic coming and going at high rates of speed) or in the deep weeds on the other side of the van or truck to avoid the road. To avoid actually becoming a “part” of the interview, I usually had to make a fairly wide arc around the interview location, something most of the locals seemed to be doing.

It was impossible not to overhear both the interviews and the phone conversations as you walked by. Many of the reporters were parked in the midst of crowds of local parents distraught over the situation.

I was struck both by the callous nature of the questions the reporters were asking the parents, and by the absolute oblivion of the reporters of the possible impacts of their words which were overheard as they shouted into their telephones to get their anchors the “story.”

Typical questions of the reporters were things like “Are you worried about your kids?” or “Do you know if your child is OK?” Typical conversations with anchors included comments like “The situation inside the school may be escalating!”

Let me just say this. I cannot think of a more idiotic question than these, but these were by far the most frequently asked questions. And after a while it was clear as the reporters cycled through one parent after another that they were out to “get” something. And what that was was clear enough when one of the the mothers broke down sobbing into the camera. This was the interview I saw replayed time after time on the local news station that evening. The reporters knew the question was not an attempt to get a factual response. The questions were designed to get a parent to break down on camera. Pure and simple. The comments back and forth with their anchors showed that no matter how much concern they expressed during the interview, they were really focused on getting “the shot” that the news station needed to get on the air.

Bastards. Bastards. I seriously wanted to walk over and punch that reporter right in the face.

Evil emotional vampires. Vultures preying on the pain of others. Bastards.

Of all the interviews I saw, only one qualified as actual news. This was the one of the parent (who I know slightly) whose son had text messaged him. That inteview (which occurred right next to me) was the only one I saw that was both professionally handled and newsworthy.

Next observation:

There was a definite difference in how the local and state authorities dealt with the local parents and friends, and how they dealt with the press. The most galling example of this was when the children’s bus finally showed up at Deer Creek Elementary school for parents to pick up their kids. As the buses came into the parking lot, the police aggressively ordered the parents to back up away from the drop off point to allow the buses to unload. The press, however, was allowed to put their cameras right up against the buses, forcing the parents to actually move around some of the cameras and reporters to get to their kids. I don’t know if this was due to the press ignoring the police, or if the police have some policy to allow access for the press. Probably both.

Final observation: There were press people roaming through the crowds with hand-held cameras looking for every opportunity to record some emotional breakdown. To be fair I suppose they also were looking for opportunities to record happy reunions too, but the general tendency seemed to favor finding some poor mother who was beside herself with fear and grief and shove a camera in her face.

On three occasions while I was walking around the scenes, reporters moved in my direction as if to interview me. In all three cases I gave them the most effective “go-to-hell” look I could muster, and all of them turned to other victims. Which is a shame, I suppose I should have allowed them to interview me so that I could say the following:

“I don’t know anything about why this gunman came to our town to commit this heinous act. But I know everything about why you are here shoving cameras into our faces to record our pain and suffering. I hope when you go to your hotels or homes tonight and look at yourself in the mirror, you realize that you have done everything in your power to make a horrible situation worse. Now get out of my face and go back into the hole you crawled out of.”

I thought I despised the press before Wednesday.

I was wrong.