COMMENTS: No CIA Torture, No Foreign News

The aftermath of yesterday afternoon's Christmas shopping shooting in Omaha was the Story of the Day. ABC treated the shooting as most neworthy, filing three separate reports. ABC and CBS both led from outside the fatal department store in the Westroads shopping mall. NBC chose the formal speech in which Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney explained his position on the role of religion in the body politic. The most important news of the day--that the CIA had destroyed videotape evidence of its waterboarding torture of suspects--was mentioned only in passing and only by NBC. And there was not a single story filed from overseas on any of the three newscasts. The closest any came to a foreign story was a study by a business school in London that found a high incidence of dyslexia among American corporate fatcats.

"Instead of red ribbons and green bows," ABC's Chris Bury (no link) found "yellow tape" surrounding the Omaha crime scene. ABC played the EMS 911 audiotape of a voiceless emergency, "the operator hearing nothing but gunshots," as anchor Charles Gibson put it. All three networks had their computer graphics departments animate the route that Robert Hawkins, the suicidal 19-year-old, took to the third floor of the Van Naur department store as he killed six employees at the gift wrapping counter, two shoppers and then himself. He used an AK-47 assault rifle that is believed to have belonged to his stepfather.

ABC's Bury retraced Hawkins' "short tumultuous life" from his parents' divorce through foster care, group homes and treatment centers: "Working at McDonald's was a step up." NBC's Lee Cowan evoked Hawkins' "emotional mindset" in the days leading up to his murderous suicide: "He lost his job. He lost his girlfriend. And he had a court date pending on charges of underage drinking." And CBS' Dean Reynolds repeated police reports of "warning signs in text messages, telephone calls and notes to friends." At the end he was living at the house of a friend, whose mother, Debora Meruca Kovac quoted a suicide note she found in his bedroom to CBS' Reynolds: "I have been a piece of shit all my life. Now I will be famous." "Infamy," mused NBC's Cowan "is never well remembered and tonight thoughts remain mostly with his victims and not with him." However ABC's Eric Horng attended Omaha's vigil for the dead and counted nine candles.

CBS' Byron Pitts surveyed general security measures in the nation's 1,200-or-so major enclosed shopping malls. Mostly they rely on CCTV surveillance "that can zoom in on a license plate in the parking lot, follow a suspected shoplifter through the mall or home into a suspicious person." Human security consists mostly of unarmed uniformed guards and off-duty police officers. ABC's Pierre Thomas generalized that security is mostly designed "to respond to an attack rather than to prevent one." Shopping mall operators know that if security becomes airport-terminal-tight they will scare off customers: "Will American shoppers tolerate more draconian security?" Thomas wondered.

ABC News announced that cameraman Ralph Binder was killed in a car crash on his way to covering the Omaha shootings


You must be logged in to this website to leave a comment. Please click here to log in so you can participate in the discussion.