I’ve noticed three stages to the coverage of the senseless slaughters that are coming at us fast and furious. The first stage begins with the bulletin, and then details are rapidly fleshed out as reporters race to the scene and survivors with cell phones begin transmitting words and pictures. The second stage offers profiles of the victims, the killer, and the community. There will be a story on how easily the killer came by his arms; another will wonder what made him do it. As for the third stage, it looks like this:
“Kirkwood begins healing process” (Columbia Missourian, February 11)
“Kirkwood begins long, slow healing process” (Joplin Globe, February 11)
“Healing efforts continue on NIU campus” (WLS TV home page, February 16)
“Northern Illinois Athletics will join with the rest of the Northern Illinois University community in observing a week of healing . . . ” (DeKalb’s Daily Chronicle, February 16)
“For NIU, a time to heal” (New Mexican, February 16)
“After hell comes healing” (Sun-Times February 19)
“Grief counselors help NIU staff begin healing process” (Daily Herald, February 20)
The killings at the Kirkwood, Missouri, city hall occurred on February 7, the ones in an NIU lecture hall on February 14. Please note that two days later, WLS was reporting not that the healing had begun but that it was continuing.
I’m reminded of what Bobby Kennedy said to a black audience in Indianapolis the night Martin Luther King was assassinated. He told them what had happened, and he quoted Aeschylus: “Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
“Drop by drop” sounds like a slow process to me, much too slow for today’s media, who want the healing to kick in almost immediately–perhaps so they can move on to another story. It would be a terrible thing if communities like Kirkwood or NIU that felt still shattered a week after their catastrophes blamed themselves for falling short at healing. If King’s assassination and its aftermath had been covered by today’s standards, would we have seen headlines such as this: “Experts call riots first step in healing”?