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Harm Outweighs Good: Newtown School Shooting 911 Calls Shouldn't Be Released

Police_at_Sandy_HookIt’s been almost exactly one year since twenty children and six adults were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, the second-deadliest shooting in American history.

Today at 2pm ET some audio recordings of 911 calls made from Sandy Hook will be released to the media. As CNN reports, the release is being administered by attorneys for the Town of Newtown. This after The Associated Press challenged authorities’ initial refusal to release the 911 tapes in an effort to shield victims’ families. Last week a Connecticut Superior Court judge upheld the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission’s ruling to release the recordings and a prosecutor dropped his fight to keep them from the media.

Which brings us to today…

A day when hundreds of family members and friends of those killed are waking up with dread in their hearts and minds. A day when they’re forced to relive the terrifying last moments of their loved ones lives, yes, even if they choose not to listen.

After killing his mother in their home, Adam Lanza, 20, gunned down 20 children and six educators with a semi-automatic rifle on Dec, 14, 2012.

“We all understand why some people have strong feelings about the release of these tapes. This was a horrible crime,” Kathleen Carroll, AP executive editor and senior vice president says. “It’s important to remember, though, that 911 tapes, like other police documents, are public records. Reviewing them is a part of normal newsgathering in a responsible news organization.”

The recordings will include seven landline calls from inside the school to Newtown police. Calls made from cellphones that were routed to state police are not being released as of yet as they are still the subject of a separate, pending freedom of information request by The Associated Press.

The gunman shot himself at the end of his 11-minute rampage. An 11-minute rampage America doesn’t need to hear.

Talk about freedom of information and “learning” from the 911 calls all you want, but in the end, that’s a pathetic excuse. A sad, thinly veiled excuse for a bunch of creepy, salacious media members to get their grubby hands on the sound of death and make big ratings/money. I worked as a news producer for more than ten years. I know. I have admittedly high-fived over scoring 911 calls, disturbing surveillance video, interviews with family members of those killed in the most atrocious ways. And I hated myself every time. Hated my job. Knew it was wrong and every single journalist reading this knows exactly what I’m talking about. Kid yourself about your responsibility to disseminate “news” all you want, Anderson Cooper. But this time, you’re wrong.

What insight are we, the public, going to gain from these 911 calls that we don’t already know? What are we going to learn that we need to know? Experts can listen and learn what schools can do differently in the future if that information can be gleaned from the recordings and families can choose to listen in private, if that’s their choice, but the public? What do we need to learn that can’t be explained in a news conference?

NOTHING.

You need to hear the raggedy panic in a school secretary’s voice as gunshots echo in the background? You need to hear the terrified screams and cries of children so that you can cry all over again over the loss and then feel good about yourself as a compassionate human being?

This ain’t about you. Or the public’s right to know. Or the media’s seemingly unending right to broadcast moments so sacred your greedy eyes and ears should not be allowed.

I, for one, will not be listening.

What about you?

Image source: Wikipedia

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