Video Uvalde: Fulfilling the role of journalism watchdog | Opinion
The assumption that a free press best serves the public when it holds government officials accountable is under fire in Uvalde, Texas, the site of the murder of 19 schoolchildren and their two teachers.
KUVE-TV and the Austin American-Statesman newspaper are facing heavy criticism from local police, officials and some residents for posting a video account of the belated police response to the deadly ordeal before that the relatives of the victims or the community cannot see it.
Without knowing the context of why the news outlets did this, it seems like a reasonable judgment.
Police and elected officials in Uvalde have changed their stories and provided misleading and questionable information about what really happened at Robb Elementary School from the day the tragedy occurred on May 24.
Then they went silent, blocking journalists’ requests, submitted under Texas Freedom of Information law, for surveillance videos, public records and facts related to the who, why and how of the mass shooting. took place inside the school.
Family and friends of the victims as well as many locals wanted to know exactly what happened given the various versions on social media and the rumour.
The horrible happened. A gunman sprayed dozens of bullets from his super-powered AR-15 semi-automatic rifle at students and teachers in two connected fourth grade classrooms while law enforcement officers huddled in the hallway near the classrooms for over an hour.
Screams and 911 phone calls from children inside classrooms asking for police help did not yield the desired response.
Officers outside classrooms with rifles, handguns and armor retreated until Pete Arrendondo, the school district’s police chief and one of the first on the scene to 11:33 a.m., agrees to enter the classroom at 12:46 p.m.
KVUE-TV and The American-Statesman received leaked copies of the hour-and-22-minute video that confirmed details of law enforcement’s response. The newspaper published the full video and an edited four-minute copy of the critical moments.
Manny Garcia, the newspaper’s columnist, said the long and short versions blurred the face of a student who first noticed the shooter after emerging from the boys’ bathroom down the hall. In the video, he runs to the bathroom to hide.
Garcia said the newspaper deliberately left the shooter’s face, which is seen in the hallway, intact. “We chose, in this case, to show his face to dispel any conspiracy that we were hiding something,” he said.
Lack of trust in government officials played a role in the decision to release the video to the public.
“Our goal is to continue to shine a light on what happened at Robb Elementary, something the families and friends of the Uvalde victims have long been calling for,” Garcia said.
“This tragedy has been made even more tragic by changing stories, heroic-sounding accounts being proven untrue and a delay or in most cases denial of public media requests for information by law enforcement officials. , civil servants and elected officials.
A good reason to release the video of the terrifyingly slow response of law enforcement officers to a horrific mass shooting, and thus fulfill journalism’s watchdog duty to hold government officials accountable.
Bill Ketter is the senior vice president of CNHI, LLC. Contact him at [email protected]