As the media covers yet another school shooting, the constant refrain is that Americans have become inured to such violence.
But as the nation came to grips with the loss of 17 students and adults at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, the TV images contained an unusual amount of video and audio from the scene, suggesting that this shooting, at least, would leave a more indelible impression.
The jarring images of students hiding in their classroom as a SWAT team moves in, and hitting the ground as gunshots ring out, drove much of the cable TV coverage around the incident.
“Twenty years ago this would be shocking and stunning,” CNN anchor Jake Tapper said during live coverage Wednesday afternoon, and yet “this happens in everyday America these days.”
The ubiquity of mass shootings in America, and the legislative inaction that follows, drove commentators to understandably lament that changes. Nearly two decades since the atrocities in Columbine, Colorado, images of young people fleeing a school building appeared to be a sad reality of a country awash in guns.
Still, even as laws don’t change, technology continues to evolve. And students turning to social media added another grim layer to a recurring tragedy.
“I am in a school shooting right now…” freshman Aidan Minoff tweeted just before 3 p.m. Minoff followed up two minutes later. “My school is being shot up and I am locked inside,” he tweeted. “I’m fucking scared right now.”
Another Twitter user, Melody Ball, circulated video she said was from her brother as a SWAT team evacuated his classroom. “So scary but glad he’s safe,” she wrote.
The amateur photos and videos posted on Twitter and Snapchat quickly made their way to news organizations, which then wrestled with how to handle graphic and disturbing images.
CBS News, for one, aired cell phone video of students taking cover as gunshots ring out.
“We think it is important to not conceal the horror of tragic events as we report on them, although we have been careful to add a warning about the graphic nature of the video so that viewers can watch it at their own discretion,” a CBS News spokesperson told POLITICO.
And going forward, the CBS spokesperson added, the video would not be used in teases and the sound muted after about 10 seconds.
Networks not only turned to the posts being widely shared on social media, but those behind them.
Minoff made appearances Wednesday night on MSNBC and CNN, recalling to host Don Lemon how he began receiving a lot of notifications on his phone after the first tweet and then continued updating the world as to what was happening inside his high school
“There no major news source at the time. There was barely any police there at the time,” Minoff said. “So I feel a lot of people found it useful and I’m glad I could do that.”