One Year Later, Enough Is Enough

Dec 14, 2013 | Updated Feb 13, 2014

As carefully wrapped packages slowly begin appearing under the Christmas tree, Alissa Parker is one of the dozens of parents in Newtown, Conn. who will have fewer gifts to wrap this year.

"It has been one year since I saw my sweet little Emilie," Parker wrote this week on her blog.
Her daughter, Emilie -- a cute girl with blonde hair and blue eyes whom Parker describes as "one of the most giving and selfless people I'd ever met" -- was one of the 20 children brutally shot and killed on the brisk morning of Friday, Dec. 14, 2012 in a cozy Sandy Hook Elementary School classroom.

The 20-year-old school gunman -- dressed in full combat gear, carrying semiautomatic pistols and a semiautomatic rifle -- also killed six educators and his mother, before turning the gun on himself.

The horrific rampage -- recorded as the second-deadliest school shooting in this nation's history, just behind the 2007 massacre on Virginia Tech's campus -- came less than two weeks before Christmas Day. The season of perpetual hope, usually filled with happy celebrations of white flakes and cups of hot cocoa, came to a screeching halt.

In the days that followed the shooting, an army of journalists from across the world -- television and radio broadcasters, print reporters, photographers and videographers -- infiltrated the otherwise sleepy suburban town in central Connecticut. They hunted for interviews and snapped photos of grieving families huddled around candle-lit vigils.

Reporters walked on lawns to knock on doors; they staked out funeral homes and clogged the roads with television trucks. They brought camera crews into the mom-and-pop institutions that have served as the town's bedrock for decades. They interviewed children who were in the school at the time of the shooting. They threw microphones in the faces of parents and town officials.

The coverage was relentless. Finally, three days after the shooting happened, the town's small weekly newspaper, The Newtown Bee, stood up and wrote on Facebook: "On behalf of the entire staff of The Bee -- we are imploring ALL our colleagues and journalists to PLEASE STAY AWAY FROM THE VICTIMS. We acknowledge it is your right to try and make contact, but we beg you to do what is right and let them grieve and ready their funeral plans in peace."

The post got over 6,000 "likes," and hundreds of comments of support followed.

As a journalist, I feel comfortable saying that it was very much within the right of the press to be in Newtown gathering facts and interviewing townspeople following this tragic event. Something happens, reporters go to the site of the news, gather the facts and then package those facts for delivery to the rest of the world -- that's the job no matter the type of story; it's hardly ever pretty.

But at some point a line has to be drawn in the sand.

As we approach the shooting's one-year anniversary, it's only right for journalists to pivot away from this story and recognize that the people whose lives were irrevocably altered last December have asked for nothing but peace this year. We should at the very least grant them that.

The story has been told. The interviews have been recorded. The photos have been snapped and the videos have been edited. Now it's time for quiet.

"For us, it's not an event," Newtown First Selectman E. Patricia Llodra told the Associated Press. "It's something we live with every single day of our lives."

In an effort to keep the media out of town, Llodra and other town officials decided not to hold a community-wide remembrance event, though various houses of worship will host memorials.

"Our community is choosing to remember and honor those who lost their lives in that awful tragedy in ways that are quiet, personal and respectful -- centered on the themes of kindness, love and service to others," she said in a statement.

Some media organizations -- USA Today, CNN, ABC and NBC among them -- have heard the message and have rightly decided not to report from Newtown on Saturday. CBS is among the group that has decided to run against the grain.

"Our goal is to have the smallest footprint possible," Tim Gaughan, director of special events for CBS News, told The New York Times. "We don't want to be intrusive, but we're confident we can report the story and not get in the way."

CBS should not be in Newtown.

Yes, one-year anniversaries of such tragedies typically draw droves of journalists back to the site where it all began. We saw it a year after 12 people were killed in a Colorado movie theater, and before that after 33 people were killed on Virginia Tech's campus. We continue to see the media coverage erupt every year when Sept. 11 rolls around.

But twenty kids died one year ago less than two weeks before Christmas in an unsuspecting Connecticut suburb. The media should handle this occasion as a special case. If organizations feel there is a story to tell on Saturday, then they should be free to tell it -- just not from the place that it happened.

Many parents in town have said that simply the sight of an antenna-topped television van sends cold tremors through their children's bodies. The memory will be there forever.

"The difference with 9/11 is that it happened in a city of millions of people," Llodra told The New York Times. "It is possible to have a life in New York without continual reminders -- for us, we live this tragedy every day."

She added: "We need our own time to heal. We're in this journey of recovery, 28,000 of us."

Almost 200 children have been shot to death since Dec. 14, 2012, according to a report published by Mother Jones. Let's focus on that story, and allow these grieving parents some time to heal in the privacy of silence. It's only right.

"I don't like seeing my daughter's picture on the news associated with her violent death," writes Alissa Parker, the mom who lost her daughter, Emilie, last December. "And I really don't like talking about the anniversary of the shooting."

If not for Alissa, let's respect the wishes of Newtown for Emilie.