The daily cable news script consists of the political horse race accompanied by the scandal du jour.
The exception: when ISIS terrorists kill 131 people in Paris — a tragedy that unnerved an already fearful viewing public and spurred executives across the dial to deploy anchors and reporters abroad for weeks of uninterrupted coverage.
As TheWrap reported, Paris emboldened many in the media to urge President Obama to escalate the battle against ISIS. But similar demands have been largely absent following shootings at a movie theatre in Colorado; an elementary school in Connecticut; a church in South Carolina; a community college in Oregon; a Colorado Planned Parenthood and now San Bernardino.
“Media is seeing this as routine; there’s almost a playbook now,” former reporter and anchor Hub Brown told TheWrap.
Brown, who teaches broadcast and digital journalism at Syracuse University, lamented the double standard in coverage, wherein networks’ alarm bells blare after terrorist attacks, but it’s business as usual after domestic gun massacres, which so far total 353 in 2015, according to Mass Shooting Tracker.
“I see a lot of outrage among people. I don’t see people being numb, but I do see journalists being somewhat numb,” Brown continued.
Although the San Bernardino shooting has prompted some in media to go after Congress — such as the New York Daily News’ bold “God Won’t Fix This” cover line calling out pro-NRA politicians — Brown argued that the press doesn’t operate with urgency on the gun violence epidemic because it’s “loathe to take on the conservative point of view,” or what he called the ‘Fox [News] effect.'”
Fellow journalism professor and former investigative reporter Mark Feldstein said journalists’ exhaustive pursuit of objectivity has resulted in a dereliction of duty when it comes to gun coverage.
Media is “constrained by its desire to appear objective, so it’s not going on a crusade for gun control despite one mass shooting after another,” he told TheWrap.
Like every other segment of society, networks operate in the political context, he noted, suggesting that anchors and reporters are just as reluctant to go to battle with the National Rifle Association as most politicians are.
But foreign terror attacks are ripe for the picking, with more “blatant, propagandist” media crusading, Feldstein said.
When an outsider ISIS member attacks instead of some deranged American youth, journalists become “xenophobic,” taking the threat much more seriously.
NPR television critic Eric Deggans disagreed with this premise, saying all attacks are horrific, but that terror attacks and mass shootings are “different tragedies,” he told TheWrap.
Deggans pointed to the Paris attacks, suggesting the global political and military implications of terror incidents draw more coverage compared to domestic mass shootings, which fall into the more narrow prism of the gun control debate in America.
Ultimately, it comes down to one number: 92 percent.
That’s how many Americans support tighter universal background checks on gun purchases.
If 92 percent of Americans called for ground troops in Syria or Iraq to defeat ISIS, it’s no mystery what the media would be urging President Obama to do.