Media Coverage: helping and hurting

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Sara Croghan , Journalism Student

In this modern day and age, some of the most fatal and scariest threats facing society have transformed from rampaging diseases and plagues, to gun violence in schools and public places. While relief does come with worries of sickness vanquished, the thought of firearms being discharged in a school does not soothe the mind and makes one inquire on why this problem has become so prominent. Regardless of what one chooses to classify as the impetus for these incidents, one thing is certain, people are scared.

While there have been no recent events history in the Sioux Falls School District involving a firearms going off, there have still been driving factors for fear. The shooting in September of 2015 at HHS struck close to home for some LHS students and made many of the infeasible stories of violence throughout the country a sudden stark and harsh reality. Current LHS student, Emily Ekstrum was one to voice this concern,

“Although it wasn’t in Sioux Falls, it was really scary to think that it could actually happen. It made me start thinking about what I would do if there was a shooting. I’m not sure what the procedure is, that makes me really scared,” said Ekstrum.

It appears that the number of gun violence occurrences, especially in schools, flashing across TV screens is growing exponentially with something new popping up every day. According to the US Education Department in the 2015-2016 school year, the same year of the HHS shooting,  240 schools reported at least one incident of a school-related shooting, a terrifyingly high number. However, upon further investigation by NPR.org, they were only able to confirm 11 of these incidents directly by school or media reports, one of them being the HHS shooting. 161 of these reported events were not confirmed or denied by either the school or school district.

Shootings and violence in places that are meant to be a safe learning environment should not be taken lightly, but neither should the mental state of the students attending these schools. It is most definitely important to be aware of proper procedure in the case that one of these situations arises, but what effect does the staggeringly high amount of media coverage and release of new statistics have? Is the worry that accompanies these things necessary,  especially when the accuracy of some of these reports and claims can be brought to question? For LHS Sophomore Ratnashree Baireddy her fear for school shootings has stemmed from all the media coverage.

“It seems like there’s always something new on TV about violence in schools, and the more and more I see it the more it makes me realize how real these issues are and wonder when it could happen to me, it’s a terrifying thought,” said Baireddy.

Students need to be aware of and know how to react when dire situations arise, but at what point does the constant bombardment of media coverage reach its limit and start becoming a unconstructive distraction? The fear distilled in some students can definitely become a disturbance according to Radiana Simeonova.

“Sometimes I’ll find myself sitting in class thinking about what I would do if an armed person walked through the door right now, it’s good to have a plan but sometimes I should be paying attention instead,”  said Simeonova.

At the end of the day student safety is the number one priority and students should feel safe at school. However, this does bring under question to what extent is the constant stream of media and statistics easily available stretch past a form of warning and cause for precaution and become detrimental to student mental health and success.

“It’s so scary to think it could happen, and it very well could and we should be prepared. But sometimes I’m just sick of having to have [the thought of a school shooting] on my mind,” said Ekstrum.