Getting it wrong

You seldom hear anyone refer to a person as being “as smart as a TV news reporter”.

There is a reason for this.

Reporters, especially the TV news variety, have a spectacular ability to get the story wrong, then to send it off in a different direction through inaccuracies and pure sensationalism. Now being a reporter is  admittedly difficult. You can’t possibly know everything about any given story, and many times, people will deliberately try to mislead you for their own purposes, but how about a little common sense coupled with some basic knowledge of the world?

Here is a case in point. According to this article, a middle school teacher in Cambridge, Maryland was suspended. The school was searched,for guns and explosives, as was his home. (None were found.) The man is not under arrest, but is at some undisclosed location and not allowed to return to school until further notice. His crime? According to the article, and to some breathless on screen commentary by a local TV reporter, the teacher’s offense was writing a novel about a fictional school shooting, set in the far future. In addition to this, he wrote under an “alias”.

First off, any reporter should be aware that writers often use a pen name. Ray Bradbury, Charles Dickens, Ben Franklin, George Orwell, and even Dr. Seuss did. In fact, Mark Twain was the pen name of Samuel Clemens. There is nothing sinister in it. But the term “alias” sounds so much more dangerous, so that’s what the reporter used.

As for violent content, every mystery or thriller writer writes violent content. We’ll need to build more jails.

In addition, later stories now claim that the books were secondary. The real problem was a four page letter the teacher wrote to the school board, the contents of which have not been disclosed. The teacher’s attorney says the man is getting treatment of some sort. How much of this is true and how much is butt covering is not clear at this point, but there is apparently far more to the story.

And that’s the point. No one thought to dig deeper and maybe ask a followup question. They went on the air and dished up an incomplete and sensationalized version of the story. So what really happened? I don’t know, but I know enough not to trust early news reports.

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