Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Thinking Allowed

Our staff columnist (the good one) writing a couple of days after the media storm over the Amish school shooting:

Inside the auction house, State Police commissioner Jeffrey Miller gave one of the best and most detailed press briefings I have ever heard.

He told us Roberts had no criminal record, had three children, had written farewell notes to his family and had cited as his motive revenge for something that had happened 20 years earlier.
Police, however, did not know what that incident was.

Then the press asked questions, and this is why I worry about some of my colleagues.

Among the questions were: Did he have a criminal record? How many children did he have? Did he leave any notes? What was his motive?

I wanted to kick them in the shin and yell, “He just said that. What were you doing? Playing a video game on your cell phone?”

As I watched all of these people at work, filing their reports and sticking cameras into the face of anyone who even looked Amish, I felt embarrassed — not just for me, but also for the Amish, for whom the shooting and subsequent media circus is their worst nightmare.

I know my newspaper colleagues and I, as well as the local TV people, were deeply affected by what had happened to these gentle people, whom we live and work beside.

But from the others, the outsiders, I got the impression this was just a hot story, and that the concern they voiced in front of their viewers nationwide was just put on for the cameras.

I hope I’m wrong.

He's not wrong. And we all know it here. Every one of my co-workers can now see, and explain, how totally clueless the major MSM outlets were about this crime, the Amish, Lancaster County, farm life in general.

For instance, many if not most of the reports identified the shooter as a "milkman" to the Amish because he was described as a "milk truck driver." As if Amish dairy farmers get their milk delivered by a guy in a little truck in a white Borden uniform. The milk truck driver picks up the milk from the farm in a tank truck and delivers it to the co-op.

And most of them explained that this little corner of the globe was a stranger to violent crime, which is complete, utter, unadulterated, inexcusable nonsense. And they ought to know it, because the same media pack swooped down on the county for every one of these horrific "murders in Paradise."

Yet my co-workers generally don't do the next step. "If they are so dramatically and totally wrong and blinded by bias in their coverage of what I know well enough to correct them on ..." Yeah. What about the places you don't know? (Like that one between Iran and Saudi Arabia). But you take their coverage as bonded truth.

But that's one step too many.