Saturday, September 21, 2013

On the Media: The Surprising History of Gun Control, School Shooting Myths, and More

The Surprising History of Gun Control, School Shooting Myths, and More
On the Media

The surprising history of the gun control narrative, the media myths of past school shootings, and the problem when the media speculate on the mental health of shooters.

We’ve become accustomed in the past 20 years to seeing the issue of guns in America broken down into two camps: gun control advocates — led by police chiefs and Sarah Brady — and the all-powerful National Rifle Association. Bob talks to Adam Winkler, author of Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms In America, who says there was a time, relatively recently, in fact, when the NRA Supported gun control legislation, and the staunchest defenders of so-called "gun rights" were on the radical left.

How Myths Form After a School Shooting

The press has misreported a lot about the Newtown shooting, and if history is any guide, much of that misreporting will inform our memory of the event. In his book Columbine, Dave Cullen revisited that soul shattering school shooting 13 years ago. He tells Bob that our story of that event is largely frozen in early misreporting.

Speculating about Adam Lanza's Mind

Once Adam Lanza had been correctly identified as the shooter, speculation quickly turned to why he killed so many. Much of the media raced, as it often does, to explain the tragedy by speculating on Lanza’s psychological state. Particularly bandied about was whether Lanza had been diagnosed with either a personality disorder or Asperger’s Syndrome. Bob talks with the Columbia Journalism Review's Curtis Brainard about the perils of this sort of coverage.

Interviewing Kids In the Wake of a Tragedy

A lot of criticism was leveled at the press for interviewing the child survivors of the Newtown school shooting in its immediate aftermath. Bob talks to WABC-TV reporter Bill Ritter about whether it's ever appropriate to interview a child in the moments after a disaster of this nature, and whether the very act of interviewing a child could contribute to the childrens' trauma.

Politicizing the Congressional Research Service

Last week, the Congressional Research Service released an updated version of a report that repudiates a mainstay of conservative economic doctrine: namely, that reducing top marginal tax rates spurs economic growth. Despite the CRS's bipartisan track record, and despite the report's potentially explosive implications for the ongoing "fiscal cliff" debate, the media have barely paid it any attention. Roll Call reporter Emma Dumain talks with Bob about the peculiar role of the CRS as a non-partisan football in a fiercely partisan game.

To Bork

Supreme Court nominee and Constitutional originalist Robert Bork died this week at the age of 85. In a segment that originally aired in 2005, Brooke muses over the verb "to bork," coined in honor of the man whose unsuccessful bid for the bench earned him a place in Webster's.

The Great Newspaper Strike of 1962-63

Fifty years ago this month, 17,000 New York City newspaper workers went on strike, shuttering the city's seven daily papers for 114 days. Rooted in fears about new "cold type" printing technology, the strike ended up devastating the city's newspaper culture and launching the careers of a new generation of writers including Tom Wolfe, Gay Talese, and Nora Ephron. Vanity Fair contributor Scott Sherman talks with Bob about the strike and its legacy.


In 2010, Congress passed the Commercial Advertising Loudness Mitigation Act, also known as the CALM Act, which would keep television commercials from being louder than the programs they sponsor. The law finally went into effect last week. In an interview originally aired in 2010, the Wall Street Journal’s Elizabeth Williamson explains to Bob why regulators haven't been able to turn down the volume of commercials until now.

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