Has the race to be first become insensitive?

I was sitting in a lounge at JFK Airport after attending an intensive two-week institute on news literacy.

So what.

But as I sat there, the coverage of the tragedy of the massacre in Aurora, Colorado dominated the two televisions. And justifiably so.

As state and local officials try to make sense, if that’s possible, of what is unfolding, I couldn’t help but watch the reaction of people around me. A mom and her kids glanced up every so often, while two of her kids glance up and then go back to playing with their phones.

Another couple glanced up and went back to their routine.

Have we become desensitized to these kinds of acts of violence? It was a movie theater for crying out loud.

My kids, your kids, our neighbors could have been in a movie theater watching a movie premier. Just what are we becoming?

As we discussed during the Institute, the once dissemination of information by reputable and trained journalists has turned into a free-for-all by anyone with a cell phone, Twitter or Facebook account.

It’s no longer what’s right, but what’s first. It’s all about “me” -- can I get this on to Twitter first? Can my cell phone video make the news?

Who cares if it’s not right? Who cares if it counters accurate information?

It seems as though the “slow down and look at the accident” mentality has permeated into mainstream society. Yes, we’re stunned, shocked and appalled by heinous acts like those in Aurora, Colorado, Chardon, Ohio, Virginia Tech University, and, of course, Columbine. But yet every time we face another massacre, the first thing we hear is “it’s the worse in American history.”

It’s record setting event every time; one which we get used to hearing about. In fact, we’re so used to it – we Tweet it, post it and text it – almost to a fault – so much so that during his press conference, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates urged caution about information being disseminated via social media. According to some reports, misinformation via social media was rampant. It has become such a “routine” Matt Pearce of the LA Times wrote about it Friday afternoon (http://www.latimes.com/news/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-colorado-shooting-social-media-20120720,0,1633530.story).

It just seems that before rush to tweet their tweets and update their Facebook statuses, one thing needs to be done.

Think about the victims and their families.

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  • Stan, I agree about how some of us have become desensitized. (Although I'm not sure how people waiting for a plane are supposed to react when hearing the news.)

    But the race to be first and insensitivity weren't invented by Tweeters, etc. I entered the Chicago daily newspaper business as a boot reporter in 1965 and one of the first big stories I covered was the disappearance of an airliner somewhere over Lake Michigan. (Not a trace was found.) I was working the midnight shift, and one of my assignments was to knock on the door (at 4 a.m.) of the family of a stewardess who was on the plane and ask (as ordered by the night city editor) if the family "was sorry now that she became a stewardess." I'm not kidding. I didn't do it, but lied to the editor later than no one answered the door.

    It was during the Vietnam War buildup and the Pentagon, for some inexplicable reason, released the names of those killed in action at midnight. There were no details given. My job was to call the families in the dead of night and find out how it happened. Surprisingly, some families were glad that someone cared enough to ask.

    Old time reporters back then thought little or nothing of offending in order to be first with the story.

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