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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Overwhelmed by the News

I wonder today, as I read The New York Times' story on the Minnesota school killing what can be learned from events such as these. This is the worst killing since The Columbine one and, for me, it is the type of news event that creates, more than anything, confusion. I think part of it is just the difficulty in understanding. When you think about the news, there are many different kinds of news stories, as well as many different ways of presenting them. When one is reporting on, say, a story about legislation, one looks for a story within the story. So, if the story is about whether or not the Legislature will pass a medical marijuana bill (they didn't), one looks for a person who would be impacted by such a law—typically someone who needs or uses marijuana for medical purposes. Then one goes on to explain the bill. So the idea is that, as a journalist, one is looking for a person to humanize a story about a law. In the reportage of the Terry Schiavo story, the "character" doesn't need to be looked for, obviously, and many of the stories are focusing, not just on her and her family, but also in what Congress is doing and the legal ramifications. In a story like a school killing, though, I think, from a journalistic perspective, it's difficult to know what one is looking for. Perhaps because we've all been adolescents, yet the experience of being a teenager who decides to go on a killing spree is decidedly abject. One can look for social causes, I suppose, but do social causes really explain, really elucidate, what can only be considered insane behavior? The Times focused, a bit, on the fact that this took place on a reservation and quoted AIM leaders as being surprised, somewhat, to see such a thing on an Indian reservation, noting that it was the type of event more expected at "white" schools. I have no idea if that's true or not and, if so, I'm not sure what that would mean. I'm not sure one can ever find reasonable explanations for these things, but I am curious to see how the media—nationally—will approach this story. Can anything be learned when inexplicable crimes happen again and again, or do we just accept that now, in this day and age, these kinds of things happen? Kids decide to off half a dozen people, their grandparents and themselves?