Michael Wagar

The recent mass shootings prompted my niece to post on Facebook about the media’s penchant to publicize such tragedy. She believed coverage of the shootings just encourages more shootings.

“What if we didn’t publicize mass shootings so much, so quickly,” she wrote. “What if we all took a break from arguing, or claiming sides and focused more on just being good people and setting good examples?”

She had more to say. She said the shootings are politicized, with some people using it to push their agenda of gun control, and the push back from the other side. She said that back and forth hasn’t helped in the past. But she offered a solution, one that newspapers can help push.

“Maybe people should spend more time being present, building trust, communicating, setting a good example, making good decisions, being good parents, family members and friends, supporting one another, all things that can build a better community. Because you never know, you could change someone’s life, or be someone’s saving grace. You could very well prevent another horrible incident from occurring, or change the future of our country. … I firmly believe we can change that over time if we put in a little effort.”

My response:

 “I think blaming it on the media’s extensive coverage is misguided. I think we have always had angry, unstable people causing violence, and with 330 million people living in the United States, the chance someone will snap is high. When other nations have mass killings, it is also publicized to a great extent. The question, and I don’t have the answer, is why does the USA have vastly more than their share of mass killings? Blaming it on the media is just too easy.”

Sarah agreed. We will always have angry people, she said. We can’t prevent violence. But she said, “maybe we can at least try. Try and prevent those people from snapping. And maybe open up the idea that it’s not always just one thing causing these things to happen. That it may be more complex.”

“And I don’t know why these things are happening more in America than other countries either, but my hunch is because we haven’t been paying attention and we’ve gotten pretty lazy over the years. I personally think we’ve created a lot of monsters. And it’s going to be a lot of work to re-align and/or come back from the damage we’ve done. And it doesn’t seem like that’s the answer people want to hear. So they stick with ban this or ban that instead of taking responsibility for what might be their very own fault.”

I’ve always believed that newspapers should reflect life, which is both good and bad. It is easy to report on the shootings, on crime, on a fatal crash, embezzlement and the like. But it takes effort to focus on the good, and we need to make sure that is a priority.

The good newspapers of this state do a great job being watchdogs on society, making sure the rich and powerful are in check when they get out of hand. I am proud of these efforts. But it is not enough. It is important to shine light on the efforts of our community to help others. I think of such efforts in my community, for example, to collect items to give to students as they go back to school. I think the message to those less fortunate that people care about them goes a long way.

This week I interviewed a woman who is collecting donations to pay for sunscreen to give to our troops overseas. She also donates facial care items to a local retirement center for 64 residents. She agrees with one of my main tenants in life: She said, “When you give, God gives you abundance back. It is not always financial, it is in blessings in other ways.”

My niece is married to a Navy Seal, trained as a medic. He has seen more than his share of the bad in society. He has held friends as they bled out.

His wife, my niece, gave birth to a daughter this past weekend. I will fly down at Thanksgiving to meet our newest gem. I can’t wait. In two months her father will be deployed once again to the Mideast.

I can see him coming back from a tough day in the field and opening up a care package from strangers such as the sunscreen. I think it would give him a bit of hope, a bit of sunshine, a message that humanity is not lost.

I asked Sarah if it mattered to the troops.

She wrote, “Care packages go a long way. Especially in those ‘combat zones’ where there’s minimal downtime and/or higher stress levels. … Troops very much appreciate the support back home. I think it makes a huge difference.”

Sarah has it wrong in blaming the media, but she is onto something when it comes to helping others. 

Michael Wagar is the president of Lafromboise Communications, which owns The Reflector. He can be reached at mwagar@chronline.com.

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