Nets Focus on Colorado Heroes, not Killer

Rather than give a crazed Colorado gunman the notoriety he was looking for, the morning network news shows focused on the people who ended Sunday's mayhem at a Colorado Springs megachurch.

Tuesday's morning coverage on ABC and NBC highlighted the actions of Jeanne Assam, the volunteer security guard at NewLifeChurch who used a handgun to end the killer's rampage, and Larry Bourbannais, a congregant who challenged the gunman despite not being armed himself. 

Robert Knight, director of Culture and Media, called on the media last week to “report responsibly” on events such as last week's massacre in an Omaha, Nebraska mall.  Media coverage of the Omaha incident reported extensively on the name and motivations of the killer, giving him attention he was seeking.

Media outlets tragically received the opportunity to practice Knight's advice less than a week after the Omaha tragedy when a young man opened fire and killed two people at a missionary training center shortly after midnight, and twelve hours later at the church, killing two more people. 

Apparently the message to “report responsibly” has been received by some producers.

During the Tuesday morning interviews, the networks also permitted Assam and Bourbannais to credit their heroic actions to God. 

Bourbannais related what happened after Assam incapacitated the gunman to NBC's Meredith Vieira:

And as I paralleled her and went up to the wall, we both stepped to the shooter as he slumped down and his head tilted. And I said, that's the calmest, bravest thing I've ever seen, how did you do that?  She said, I was praying and asking the Holy Spirit the entire time to guide me.  And I want to give God the glory because I'm convinced he spared us that day.

When ABC's Dan Harris asked Assam, a former law enforcement officer, if it was “going to take a while to get over what [she] had to do on Sunday,” Assam replied “God puts us all in our special assignments and He gave me the assignment as a law enforcement officer and that's—that's what I was called to do.” 

CBS' The Early Show aired a clip of Assam at the news conference saying “This has got to be God because of the firepower that [the gunman] had versus what I had.” 

Reports indicated the gunman entered the church firing a high-powered rifle and carrying more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition. 

What happened on Sunday was a terrible tragedy.  Four young lives were cut short and other people were wounded.  However, by focusing on the people who did their part to avert more senseless deaths, the media denied the gunman the notoriety he was clearly seeking. 

Colleen Raezler is a research assistant at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the MediaResearchCenter.