This brief commentary by Stephen King (free link) about the mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine, says everything that needs to be said. I wish it were otherwise.
The Sun Journal of Lewiston, Maine, and the Portland Press Herald have dropped their paywall for coverage of the mass shootings in Lewiston on Wednesday night, which claimed what’s now reported to be 18 lives. The two papers, which are owned by the same nonprofit trust, have also published a sensitive story about some of the victims — six at the moment, with, sadly, more to come.
Meanwhile, The Boston Globe is treating this as a local story, going all-in with multiple reports. Today’s print edition includes four front-page stories, ranging from a round-up of what we know so far to a story on Maine’s gun laws. There are two opinion pieces and four more articles in the metro section covering topics such as the fear experienced at nearby Bates College and how teachers should discuss mass shootings with their students. The Globe is also running updates on its homepage.
For journalists, this is difficult, harrowing work. I’ve covered some emotionally upsetting stories, but never anything remotely like this. While we focus on the suffering of the victims, think about the reporters, too. Like first responders, journalists are performing a vital role in keeping the public informed about an ongoing tragedy.
Earlier this week, the Pew Research Center reported the results of a survey that found news consumption fell significantly between 2016 and 2022: “In 2016, 51% of U.S. adults said they followed the news all or most of the time. But that share fell to 38% in 2022, the most recent time we asked this question.”
Now we are in a moment of real horror and crisis. From war in Ukraine to Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel to the retaliatory response that’s now under way; from chaos in Washington to another terrible mass shooting, this time in Lewiston, Maine — it’s no wonder that people are tuning out. Who can process all this?
With the shooter in Lewiston still at large, it’s a good time to take another look at “The Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook,” compiled in 2013 after an earlier mass shooting. Given that initial reports are often wrong, there’s little reason to watch the story unfold in real time. Catch the top of the hour if you must, but otherwise wait for something more comprehensive and vetted.
And here are some Maine-based sources of coverage:
- The Sun Journal of Lewiston and its larger sister paper, the Portland Press Herald
- The Maine Monitor, a digital nonprofit
- The Bangor Daily News, the state’s only daily paper that’s not part of the Press Herald family
- Maine Public Radio
- Local TV news, of course, but that’s more suited to residents than to outsiders