Airing 911 calls is becoming more common during newscasts but do they do any good to the general public? As we approach the one year commemoration of the Sandy Hook school shootings, it makes the topic ever more relevant.
The 911 tapes were released on Wednesday but do we really want to listen to them? Better yet, do we need to listen to them? Do they serve a purpose other than to relive a tragedy that still resonates in the minds of parents who send their kids off to school each day and to those who experienced it firsthand? The horror of that day need not be recalled and news networks and local news teams need to be keenly aware of the impact airing such calls could bring.
In certain instances airing a 911 call can be beneficial in that it can help clear up any confusion regarding a certain event. The George Zimmerman case comes to mind as it was absolutely crucial to know what was said in the 911 calls after they came into question. Such calls can also help confirm if a dispatcher is behaving inappropriately which can lead to disciplinary action if there’s proof any actions or lack thereof, may have impeded the timely arrival of emergency crews. This is good use of airing a 911 call.
Sandy Hook, on the other hand, seems pointless, but this is just my opinion. As a parent, it’s one of the worst scenarios you could ever face and hearing the 911 calls from that day just doesn’t seem to do anything but provide macabre audio. We know what happened. That’s more than enough.
If your newsroom is discussing whether or not to air the Sandy Hook 911 calls, ask yourselves if it’s really news and if it offers any public benefit. If the only comments your reporters or anchors can make after airing clips is "just awful" or something to that effect, yes, we already know that day was "awful," but their saying it doesn't add anything to the story.
What happened on December 14, 2012 was news and part of history, but the actual calls are not helping anyone. They were important a year ago, but not today.
What's your take?
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