Frank Sesno, who runs the journalism school at George Washington University, has a challenge for the media.
He says the school massacre in Newtown calls for nothing less than a full-fledged media agenda on guns and violence.
“I mean an agenda in terms of an attention span,” he tells me in a video interview. “Our agenda should be to recognize that this is a deep, complicated, hugely emotional and constitutional issue.”
After all, says the former CNN Washington bureau chief, “we have hundreds, maybe thousands of children who are wounded and/or killed in mass slayings or on dark, shadowy street corners in this country and we owe them a serious conversation.
Sesno says the press has shied away from such a debate because politicians have ducked it and that “part of it is the fear of alienating the audience…The media themselves have a huge opportunity and power and responsibility to channel this. There’s something particularly horrific about this because the children were so small and so defenseless.”
That, he says, could make Newtown a tipping point.
On a personal level, says Sesno, “it’s just gut-wrenching. I cannot watch the president of the United States or the parents or friends of these kids or the roll call of these children without tearing up myself, partly because I’m a father, partly because I’ve covered stories like this.”