Columbine and the End of Journalism…Part VI, Bloggers

April 23, 2010 at 11:43 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Lev Grossman, who wrote the TIME‘s uneven, ten-year piece on ColumbineThe Meaning Of Murder,” also penned TIME‘s story on its Person of the Year 2006: You. “You” meaning the bloggers and other Internet posters “For seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game,” Grossman explained. But many of those who blogged about Columbine on the ten-year may not have read Grossman’s article.
Aberdeen, South Dakota resident David Newquist was typical. He says his blog, “Northern Valley Beacon,” is “news notes, and observations…with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media-old and new.” On October 18, 2009 he praised an essay in O The Oprah Magazine by Susan Klebold, Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold’s mother. The essay, published nearly six months after the ten-year, garnered national attention. In a blog entry titled “Thank you, Susan Klebold” Newquist writes, “I am sure that it [the essay] will be maligned by the malice-minded, but for those who earnestly want to solve problems, the essay provides a basis for new understanding.”
Actually, even Susan Klebold would disagree with that statement. The title of her essay was, “I Will Never Know Why.” The only revelation was an indication she had met with an undisclosed number of victims parents: “On a few occasions I was contacted by the parents of some of the children killed at the school. These courageous individuals asked to meet privately so we could talk. Their compassion helped me survive.” If those three sentences were the basis of a “new understanding,” Newquist did not show it. And he took the same unknowledgeable tact when writing about the rest of Klebold’s essay. An Op-Ed I wrote for the Denver Post noted that the Klebold essay was sad not only for the lack of new revelations, but for not addressing “two of the most compelling and troubling statements the Klebolds have ever made about their son (statements that in both instances were also recanted).” I added, “Some of the stories Klebold told [in the essay] are eerily similar to others that already have been reported. For example, Klebold tells of how Dylan’s voice ‘sounded sharp’ when he said goodbye the morning of the shootings, which has been widely recounted. And Klebold talks of a survey indicating that ’83 percent of respondents said that the parents’ failure to teach Dylan and Eric proper values played a major part in the Columbine killings.’
“Yet in 2004, New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote a small piece after speaking with the Klebolds and noted, ‘(Dylan’s father) Tom had in front of him the poll results, news stories and documents showing that 83 percent of Americans had believed the parents were partly to blame.'”
The blogger “Must Read Faster” is Melissa Caldwell of Anniston, Alabama. “I’m a wife, a mother, and an avid lover of books!” she writes. “I love to read and love to talk about what I’m reading!” Which is, of course, great. But she notes that in reading about Columbine on the ten-year anniversary, “I was shocked to find out that police and teachers had had not just subtle hints but HUGE arrows pointing to these two guys way in advance! This tragedy could have been prevented if only things had been run a little better. If people had only listened and recognized the signs of mental illness these two were suffering from. It wasn’t as if they had hid it very well either…they slipped up and revealed some of their plans almost a year or so before the shootings took place! Teachers, the police and even their parents had chances to act, but none did.” Arguably all true (although the parents’ roles may be more open to debate). Caldwell’s reaction on the ten-year is typical, yet uninformed. Our knowledge of those things had been true for years given the ongoing revelations surrounding the police investigation.

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An Op-Ed on Oprah and a Columbine killer’s mother

October 18, 2009 at 3:29 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I have an Op-Ed in today’s Denver Post on the essay written by the mother of Columbine killer Dylan Klebold for Oprah. It begins, “One of the most compelling questions after Columbine was, ‘Who are the parents?’ Ten years later, it remains unanswered.”

The Op-Ed is a fuller version of my thoughts on the essay by Susan Klebold for O The Oprah Magazine. While observers had to make a little leap of analysis when a few select excerpts were first released, it appears those excerpts did give a pretty good picture: There was hardly anything new in the essay. “Years later, the Klebolds seem stuck on the same script,” I write in the Op-Ed titled “Klebold may not know what she knows.”

Aside from the content of the Klebold essay, released this past week, what strikes me is how many bloggers are getting it wrong. Many of the posts I have seen buy into O magazine’s (erroneous) salesmanship that the contents of the essay – or even Klebold speaking – are new.

Otherwise, there is one key recommendation I have in the Op-Ed, although the final say will come from elsewhere.

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