Uvalde’s video release fuels raw feelings towards media

NEW YORK – The decision by two news outlets to publish an excruciating 77-minute video last week showing police inaction during the Robb Elementary School mass shooting has drawn a harsh response from residents of Uvalde, Texas, even though they have been seeking this kind of transparency for weeks. .

The families of the 19 children and two teachers killed by an 18-year-old gunman on May 24 say the Austin American statesman and KVUE-TV showed callousness in releasing the video to the public before those directly affected have had the chance to see it.

Surveillance video footage released on Tuesday – which was later shown and written about by other news outlets – captures the shooter entering the school and includes audio of shots fired from inside a classroom. class. It shows the police quickly entering the school, then wandering down a hallway for over an hour before finally killing the shooter.

The community’s response reflects the raw feelings towards the journalists who came to Uvalde to investigate what happened, and the reality that journalism often steps on toes.

The Texas House of Representatives committee investigating the police response to the shooting had planned to show the footage today to family members and then release it to the public. The committee continues to hold a closed session with residents to discuss the conclusion of its investigation.

“We are blindsided by a leak,” said Angel Garza, whose 10-year-old daughter Amerie Jo was killed in Robb, according to CNN, which covered the appearance of some family members last week at a an event in Washington. “Who do you think you are to broadcast images like this of our children who can’t even speak for themselves, but you want to go ahead and broadcast their final moments to the world? What makes you think it’s OK? »

Kimberly Rubio said at the event in Washington that she understood the need to hold those responsible accountable, but did not want to hear the sound of gunfire that day. Her daughter, Lexi, 10, was killed.

While disagreeing with the way the investigation was conducted, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin called the video’s press release unprofessional.

“There was no reason for the families to see this,” McLaughlin said. “They needed to see the video, but they didn’t need to see the shooter enter or hear the gunshots.”

News outlets said they reached out to family members before the video was released, though it’s unclear how many they reached or what the response was. The American statesman referred a reporter to a column written by Manny Garcia, the newspaper’s editor, which did not address the topic. KVUE news director Christina Ginn did not respond to calls seeking comment.

On social media, Ginn retweeted a comment from another reporter that police may have shared the video with families already themselves. Journalists have been calling for his release for weeks, as the police response is at the center of the investigation.

Before posting the video, the outlets deleted the sound of the screams. The image of a boy in the hallway who spotted the shooter and quickly fled to safety has been blurred to protect his privacy.

When it first aired the video, KVUE said Tony Plohetski, a reporter who works for both the newspaper and the TV station, first saw the video two weeks earlier.

The station considered holding back until the video was officially released. “The problem with this is that the authorities have consistently, from day one, failed the people of Uvalde,” Plohetski told CNN. He declined to comment further to The Associated Press.

“Truth always wins,” Garcia wrote in his message to American-Statesman readers, “may not be on our clock, but truth always prevails.”

The media could have waited until next week, but they would not have acted in the public interest, said Kelly McBride, an expert in journalism ethics at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. In this case, the video had clear and strong news value, she said.

While family members are important stakeholders in the story, “we’re talking about a much larger interest group, and it’s the public who believe the police will act in their best interest,” said she declared. “You can clearly see that’s not happening.”

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