- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wall-to-wall news coverage quickly followed a shooting attack Wednesday on Republican lawmakers at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia.

Early reports were fragmented, eyewitness accounts at a premium. Coverage expanded to highlight the human interest angle, which included praise for the U.S. Capitol Police and first responders on duty that morning, public prayers and noble calls for unity on Capitol Hill.

The incident was also quickly politicized, however.

“The battle over gun control will likely become energized after today’s shooting, the specifics no doubt tailored to the incident itself. Did the gunman procure his weapon or weapons legally? If not, how did he get them? Was he mentally ill? Should he have been eligible for a permit? There’s a usual list of questions that arise in such shootings. That we have such a familiar de facto system for processing such violence should be a ringing signal that we have, as a nation, tolerated routine gun violence for far too long,” said a Los Angeles Times editorial that appeared just a few hours after the shooting.

“We hope, of course, that the victims of today’s shooting recover fully. But we also hope that the next time the NRA lobbyists visit congressional offices with their guns-for-everyone agenda, they are greeted by members of Congress who are far more skeptical and probing than they have been in the past,” The Times said.

Twitter soon erupted.

“Steve Scalise, shot at a congressional baseball game in Alexandria, was an early endorser of President Donald Trump,” tweeted Newsweek.

Daily Kos blogger Markos Moulitsas observed, “Republicans are getting what they want.”

Broadcasters also joined in with judgment calls.

“Minutes after Representative Steve Scalise and several congressional aides on Wednesday were shot while practicing for a baseball game, journalists on MSNBC and Twitter immediately politicized the attempted massacre, offering calls for gun control,” said Scott Whitlock, associate editor for the Media Research Center’s NewsBusters.org site, a conservative press watchdog.

He deemed the practice “shameful” and went on to cite the specifics.

“Although MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle admitted ‘we don’t know what type of gun’ was used, she speculated, ‘How difficult is it to get a weapon like this?’ MSNBC security expert Clint Watts replied, ‘It’s not difficult at all — we have very loose gun laws around rifles, semiautomatic rifles, whatever it might be,’” Mr. Whitlock said.

Madeleine Post, a NewsBusters.org analyst, also cited celebrities who quickly took to Twitter to have their say.

“Too many guns, too easy to get, too easy to kill,” tweeted actress Mia Farrow.

“Please Congress, what will it take for you to act?” wrote actress Julianne Moore, referring her Twitter followers to Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, both interest groups that “address our nation’s culture of gun violence.”

One media analyst appeared upset that the press had set style in place for covering shootings such as the one that transpired in Alexandria, now simply known as #Alexandria on Twitter.

“If the stunning event was only the latest tale of too many guns and too much violence in American life, it was parenthetically a window onto the media’s depressing facility in covering such happenings,” said James Warren, chief media writer for the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based think tank that explores press issues.

“For sure, the proximity to Washington and its armies of media made it a story instantly dealt with. But, regardless, the now reflexive questions and mode of coverage kicked in. What actually happened? How many gunshots? What were the law enforcement imperatives? What were the medical hazards facing the congressman who was shot? And, of course, it’s impossible to not give in to what was speculation about motives and the politics of the tragedy,” Mr. Warren noted. “You just knew you wouldn’t have to wait long for ideologically driven analyses of what had played out. Talk of a new Trump-inspired polarization. The inevitable disclosure of whether the gun was lawfully purchased and, whether or not it was, what that meant, if anything at all.”

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