Shooting at Fort Hood

Military prosecutors have charged Major Nidal Malik Hasan with 13 counts of murder in last week’s shooting at Fort Hood. The reporting of this tragedy is a “classic run-and-gun investigative story,” as stated in the article Jumping the Gunman by Stephen Engleberg.

Once reporters caught wind of the incident, they did anything to get the facts from law enforcement. But unfortunately, as this article describes, the reports usually lack context which then alters the story.

On the break of the Hasan story, the least clear newsbreak, was that Hasan was sending messages to Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical imam (religious Muslim leader or chief) in Yemen. A task force reviewed those messages and confirmed that they were harmless and consisted mostly of work related research.

The article goes on to say that in turn, what was the government suppose to do? The government can’t arrest someone on the account of exchanging e-mails with a “known bad guy.”

National Public Radio decided to provide some context to this story reporting that when Hasan was at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, his supervisors became worried that he was “losing touch with reality” and might be a threat to himself as well as others. Hasan’s supervisors discussed the option of firing him but decided that it would only be for the worse so instead, decided to send him to Fort Hood without giving him a mental health evaluation.

The e-mails that were being exchanged between Hasan and the Yemeni cleric were around the same time his supervisors became increasingly alarmed about his behavior.

The terrorism task force that reviewed the emails reviewed his personal files as well but never found anything to suggest that there was something wrong with Hasan. The files had no record of Hasan being a potential threat because the doctors at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center never added it to his file, according to the New York Times.

Had the whole story been told or recorded, the outcome of this tragedy could have been different.

This article is an example of how good reporting is essential to any breaking news.

Context plays a very important part to telling a story and when in search for the answer to the question “why.”

It is not only hard for the reader to understand but it is difficult for the reporter to try and piece together events when they are not fully aware of the complete story. From my experience of reading, more times than not, a tragedy such as this one or Columbine, begins months before when troubled signs are ignored.

In the J School we learn, at no matter what level, that reporting accurately is an essential key to journalism. The correct facts are what make the story. Some questions that should be thought about when breaking news occurs are when is it okay to publish certain information? How big of a role does competition play? And which sources are reliable, for example, juveniles and eyewitnesses that are hysterical and on the scene.

I think that because this was breaking news, inaccurate information was due to be published, but as a job of a reporter, he or she must put the competition factor to the side and dig deep in order to not just provide the events that happened recently but the whole context of the story so it is made clear.

Not only were the files and Hasan’s behavior looked past but the number of killed was inaccurate and Hasan was confirmed the killer before law enforcements confirmed it. Little things such as a number or a name can alter the whole entire story.


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