Dec 13 2015

San Bernardino shooting: How not to cover breaking news

We look at the divisive and sensationalist media coverage of the mass shooting; plus, the rise of social news videos.

As televised news events go, it had a touch of the surreal about it.

Two days after the San Bernardino mass shooting, scores of reporters stormed into the home of Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, two of the crime’s main suspects, broadcasting live while rummaging through their personal effects.

Airing images of family members and releasing sensitive material that only a few hours earlier had been part of an FBI investigation, the coverage brought the journalistic ethics of a number of news organisations into question.

Hashtags like #Thisisntjournalism were trending while reporters were still in the house, live on air.

The ensuing media coverage, which combines two big issues in the US right now – the so-called war on terror and gun control – prompted Republican presidential contender, Donald Trump, to call for a blanket ban on Muslims entering the US, while several media outlets went into a frenzy focusing on the suspects’ religious beliefs as a primary motive for the killings.