Newtown to Media: Leave Us Alone Dec. 14th

5:42 PM, Dec 9, 2013   |    comments
Police tape is viewed outside of the entrance to the Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 15, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
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Gary Stoller, USA TODAY

NEWTOWN, Conn. - Local government officials are urging the news media to stay away Saturday, the first anniversary of the Dec. 14 shootings that killed 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

"The community is choosing to remember and honor those who lost their lives in the Sandy Hook tragedy in ways that are quiet, personal and respectful - centered on themes of kindness, love and service to others," Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra said in a written statement Monday.

Llodra said the town will not be hosting any memorial events and requested that the public and the press allow Newtown residents "the time to be alone and quiet with time for personal and communal reflection."

USA TODAY Editor-in-Chief David Callaway said the news organization will not report on the anniversary from Newtown on Saturday. "We'll respect the wishes of the people of Newtown," he said.

Some other media organizations, including CNN, have announced that they also will not be in Newtown to cover the anniversary of the tragedy.

"While CNN plans to cover the one-year anniversary across our networks and platforms, we are respecting the wishes of the families, and we are not reporting from Newtown on Saturday," CNN spokeswoman Bridget Leininger said.

Craig Duff, professor of journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, says each media outlet has to make up its own mind whether to be in Newtown Saturday to report the tragic anniversary. Journalists, he says, should ask themselves whether being in Newtown is essential to reporting their stories. "If the answer is no, don't go there," Duff says.

Media outlets that decide to go to Newtown should consider the footprint they will make, he says. They should be respectful and, for example, "not bring in three live broadcast trucks when a small crew can cover any news that may happen."

Llodra said she is encouraging every Newtown resident to use the days leading up to the anniversary "as a time to formally commit to acts of service and kindness to honor those who lost their lives at Sandy Hook."

Before killing 26 people at the school, gunman Adam Lanza shot to death his mother, Nancy Lanza, at their Sandy Hook home on the morning of Dec. 14. The gunman later committed suicide at the school.

Newtown churches and other houses of worship will hold special services Saturday to reflect on and honor those who were killed.

Llodra said she and other Newtown officials met with the local print media last week and the national TV media Monday and will meet with USA TODAY and other national media Tuesday. She said the same message is being provided at each meeting: The public and the media should stay away from Newtown on Saturday.

"There is nothing new in the town's position to respectfully request the media to not come to Newtown to cover the first anniversary," Llodra told USA TODAY.

At a press conference Monday, 14 families of children and educators killed at Sandy Hook school said they plan to light a candle this weekend in memory of their loved ones.

In a joint statement, the families said the tragedy forever changed their lives, and they thanked the world for its outpouring of support. The families said they have established a new website, MySandyHookFamily.org, for all 26 families who lost a relative in the shootings at the school.

"In the midst of our grief, we have come to realize that we want our loved ones to be remembered for the lives they lived and how they touched our hearts," the website says. "We have been uplifted by the support of so many people, and we would like to keep that spirit of unity and love alive in all we do to remember those we so dearly miss."

The site asks the public to understand that each family is unique in its own experiences following the tragedy and has its own voice and perspective. "By creating this website, we hope to offer an opportunity to communicate with our families and honor our loved ones, while at the same time respecting each family's individual journey and unique experiences," it says.

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