Not an exaggeration

Buzz from First Friday shooting grew from public, not media

Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength criticized the news media last week for exaggerating the shooting at downtown’s First Friday celebration July 6 that wounded six.

Likewise, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam once lamented, “Why is the media here so negative?”

Of course, Kalam made the remark in India – where he was president.

Some things appear to be universal.

Thanks to advances in technology, “media” outlets have exploded across the world in recent decades. That’s mostly good; we’re getting more information from more sources than ever. But it can be bad too: We risk information overload – and because so much of the news that cries out to be covered is viewed as negative, it can wear on you.

In addition, you have to be wary of the credibility of some sources, particularly unknown or fly-by-night operations. A
conservative blogger recently took liberal writer Connie Schultz to task, demanding to know why she has allowed herself to be caught in rather chummy photographs with a U.S. senator.

“Care to comment?” the unnamed blogger wrote to her.

Why yes, she did care to comment. “He’s cute!” she wrote back. And he just happened to be her husband.

That was easy enough to have learned before making any accusations.

The moral of the story is that the word “media” is plural. There are a million iterations of “media,” and they’re only growing.

People have historically loved to criticize them, but the fact today is that the media outlets that tend to be the most responsible and accountable are the traditional “old media.” Heaven knows, you would hope a local newspaper’s reporter would do enough fact-checking to find out that a well-known writer and senator are married.

With that backdrop, we’ve considered what the sheriff’s conclusion was – and we respectfully will disagree on this one.

With the possible exception of some repetitive “looping” of images from the July 6 shooting by our broadcast brethren, we don’t think the local media have blown the incident out of proportion.

First off, we pray that the shooting of six folks on a downtown street is still a huge deal in Augusta, Ga. In our view, it would be difficult to overstate the episode’s impact.

If all that the local news media did was to report on it once, people in this town would still be talking about it. And they’d be wondering why the media were ignoring it.

In addition, it must be said that on the Saturday following the shooting, reporters were called to an afternoon press conference on a downtown sidewalk to hear area residents’ and business owners’ concerns about the First Friday-related violence the night before.

The news media didn’t create that buzz. The shooting did. And it would have occurred with or without a microphone, camera or pen. It was an important story for one reason: Because it was on the top of everybody’s mind who’d heard about it.

In the movie The American President, an aide to the president says of potential news coverage, “With all due respect, sir, the American people have a funny way of deciding on their own what is and what is not their business.”

It’s as true in Augusta as it is in New Delhi.

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