Journos swarm town as death toll mounts from school attack

TV news outlets went into saturation coverage mode Friday as shock spread across the country from a mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school that took the lives of at least 20 schoolchildren.

Journos swarmed into Newtown, Conn., to report on the aftermath of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The gunman, who died at the scene, reportedly targetted his mother who was a school teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary, killing her along with students, the priciple and the school psychologist.

Reaction via social media from bizzers was swift — and outraged.

The broadcast nets broke into regularly skedded programming shortly after noon ET with the first bulletins of the carnage in the town about 65 miles northeast of New York City.

Network journos scrambled to get interviews with shaken students who were in the school when the shooting began. There were dramatic reports of kids and staffers running out of the buildings as they heard the sound of rounds being fired.

As the story unfolded, broadcast and cable networks scrapped their regular schedules and focused all available resources on capturing the staggering loss in Newtown, and the impact the story is likely to have throughout the nation. Each of the Big Three networks planned to broadcast expanded editions of their nightly newscasts from Newtown, along with other special programming.

Reports on the death toll and other aspects of the incident varied widely, underscoring the chaotic nature of the attack and the difficulty journos faced in confirming details. Outlets initially reported that Ryan Lanza was the gunman, only to report within an hour that it was Lanza’s younger brother Adam who carried out the attack.

The internet also proved to be a breeding ground for social media misinformation, as profiles of average Twitter and Facebook users with the suspected gunman’s name were inundated with messages once major news outlets mistakenly featured them in their coverage.

Bizzers, like the rest of the nation, were quick to react with outrage to the news via social media. Many called for the incident to galvanize efforts to strengthen the nation’s gun laws.

“Modern Family” co-creator Steve Levitan, a vocal critic of the National Rifle Assn., urged his Twitter follows to write to their Congressional reps on the issue of gun control, tweeting a link to the USA.gov site that is a clearinghouse for contact info for politicos.

“Some people on this planet truly sicken me to the core. My heart goes out to all this affected by the senseless shooting victims in CT,” composer Michael Giacchino said via Twitter.

“How many times do thoughts&prayers have 2go out 2victims &their families b4 something gets done about gun violence in this country,” actor Daniel Dae Kim said via Twitter.

“NRA and Washington share portion of responsibility for today’s hideous shooting. We need reasonable gun control RIGHT NOW,” hyphenate Adam McKay tweeted/

Mia Farrow echoed Levitan and McKay’s words, stating, “I don’t want to hear one idiotic word out of the NRA,” then adding “#guncontrolNOW.”

Thesp Josh Duhamel said: “This needs to stop. Schools must be safe again,” while Jon Lovett tweeted “We need to stop saying ‘gun control’ and start saying ‘massacre prevention.'”

Thesp Steve Carell wrote: “Hold your kids close today.”

Some expressed a contrary opinions on the gun control issue.

“This is why we all should be prepared to defend and guard,” country singer Blake Shelton said in a tweet.

Some outlets nixed their usual tweeting patterns altogether.

ESPN, which is located in Bristol, Conn., about 30 miles northeast of Newtown, issued an internal memo telling staffers at the sports cabler to “refrain from using ‘shooter’ or other words which are not appropriate given the tragedy” in their general sports coverage, and to not tweet about sports until Sunday. What’s more, ESPN is pulling its “Showdown Sunday” label for the weekend’s NFL games.

Syfy also broke news on Twitter that the cabler decided to pull its scheduled Friday night episode of “Haven.” Syfy issued a statement to Variety:

“Tonight’s scheduled 10PM episode of Haven contained scenes of fictitious violence in a high school. In light of today’s tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, we have decided not to air it. At this time, no decision has been made as to when the episode will air.”

The mass shooting comes barely a week after NBC Sports anchor Bob Costas made headlines with a comment regarding the need for stricter gun control during NBC’s Dec. 3 “Sunday Night Football” telecast. Costas’ comments came in the wake of the murder-suicide shooting involving football player Jovan Belcher, of the Kansas City Chiefs. He remarks sparked a debate among media types about whether such commentary was appropriate for a network sports telecast, and it drew predictably strong condemnation from the gun lobby.

Hollywood was also connected to the mass shooting in a Colorado theater that left 12 dead at a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” in July.

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