The unspeakable horrors of the Sandy Hook shooting have rippled outward, touching a nerve globally. Here at home, the nation awoke on Saturday to the stunning realization of how fragile is the thread that connects us to the gift of life.
Those most immediately affected by the tragedy remain in shock, their wounds still gaping. Among those people is Ryan Lanza, the older brother of the shooter, Adam Lanza. Ryan Lanza was twice victimized on Friday — first by his brother’s senseless killing spree (which also claimed the life of their mother), secondly by the media.
As news organizations scrambled to scoop one another on the particulars of what went down, CBS mistakenly ran a photo of 24-year-old Ryan, identifying him as the gunman. It would later materialize that Adam had taken his brother’s ID, which was on his person when police found him.
But the damage was done. Within an hour of the massacre, Ryan’s picture had gone viral. So had a link to this Facebook account.
Ryan Lanza was on a bus, on the way home from work, when he learned not only of the events that had transpired at the local elementary school but of the media’s gaffe. Business Insider has screenshots of messages to and from Ryan’s Twitter account as the story unfolded. These have been reproduced here and here.
Today Ryan is left facing a thousand unanswered questions and the onerous task of burying his mother and brother. The unforced error committed initially by CBS and perpetuated by CNN, Gawker, BuzzFeed, FOX News, and Mediaite, among others, is yesterday’s news.
But it could have been today’s news. Newtown is a small community. It is not impossible to imagine some resident, irate over the senseless slaughter, taking matters into his own hands and exacting vigilante justice … on the wrong person.
We live in an age where the news cycle is not merely 24/7 but updated every second. Consumers accordingly want their information and they want it fast. Those of us who deliver it, however, have an obligation to verify sources before taking that journalistic leap. Otherwise, we all risk going over the cliff together.
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