This editorial might come off as strange since I’m the news editor of this publication. I read every single word in all seven newspapers we publish every week. Part of my job is to make sure that our stories are held to a certain standard.
Without naming names, due to professional courtesy, almost all of the stories I read about the Adriana Kuch tragedy had glaring errors, obvious bias, and even a lack of basic knowledge of how the world works.
I’m not going to use this platform to defend or condemn any member of the public or the school district. This is all going to be an insider’s look at how things went wrong in the media coverage.
If it bleeds, it leads: This is an unfortunate part of journalism. It’s a mantra you learn early in your education for this field. A bus crash is going to be on the front page, but a story about a kid doing something nice might be page 3.
That’s why so many reporters descended on Berkeley. Like sharks, they smelled blood in the water. This kind of ambulance chasing gives the rest of us a bad name. These reporters wouldn’t be able to find Berkeley on a map. And they won’t come back ever again, unless something bad happens, of course.
They might say they’re doing a good thing by shining a light on wrongdoing. But they’re not going to stay around for what happens next. They’ll have moved on to the next tragedy by then. For them, and the rest of their readers, Berkeley will be the place where this horrible thing happened and nothing more.
Bias: Most of the writers had already made their minds up by the time they arrived on scene. In print, you can tell by their choice of words. On TV, you can tell by their tone of voice. They weren’t here to inform the public, they were here to condemn and play hero.
We’re human. We can’t turn our emotions off, especially about a very emotional topic. But we’re also supposed to step back from the issue and challenge our own convictions.
There was a lot of information going around, but these reporters selected which parts fit their narrative. They edited video interviews to make some people seem good and some people seem bad.
In reality, no one is a hero or a villain – not in this situation or in any other.
Being naive: I feel like a lot of these reporters need to get out of the newsroom and live life. They had no idea how the world really works. They don’t know what really happens in a school – in every school across America. Do they think online bullying is new? Do they think that violence doesn’t happen in every high school, every week of the year?
The reporters repeated rumors on Facebook assuming they were true. How can someone trained in the media have a complete lack of media literacy? There was a tornado of accusations – about the school, the family, the kids involved – and some of the reporters just took them as fact.
When the news of this tragedy first hit, the district stayed silent because it involved kids and an active investigation. Reporters said they were hiding things. Then, the superintendent tells his version of everything (which was the wrong thing to do), and reporters blasted him for sharing information about kids and an active investigation. You can’t have it both ways.
During the press conference, the reporters were literally shouting “what are you hiding?!” They know that the official isn’t going to suddenly open up. They shouted that for show. They were just playing up for their own cameras.
Preying on kids: The teens being interviewed were literally children. I watched as they were being paraded around, cameras shoved in their faces, told they were important, and then discarded.
One of the few rules these reporters actually managed to follow was to get names for the children speaking. This is a case that they shouldn’t have. A 14-year-old talking about cutting themselves because they’ve been bullied should not have their name in the paper for everyone to see. What do you think is going to happen to these kids when their bullies read this? Or when a future employer Googles their name? I admire these kids’ bravery, and society shouldn’t condemn mental illness, but that’s what’s going to happen.
Lack of compassion: Ultimately, all of these criticisms come back to one point: compassion. This was a horrible situation – that’s one thing everyone agrees on. However, when you craft a story, you have to have a goal in mind. What good will come of it?
Most of the articles I read didn’t care about the people involved. You could tell by the way they played up the violence of it. They loved the salacious details. They just wanted the clicks.
The reporters can say that they did all these things because they care about the children, but in reality they were just preying on a bad situation and making it worse.