“The other mass shooting”

Today, there were two mass shootings that got attention, one first and one as an afterthought.

In San Bernardino, Ca., fourteen people were killed by three gunmen. In Savannah, Ga., where I live, one person was killed and three were injured by at least two gunmen.

After the initial terror of the California shootings, the Washington Post ran this story, calling Savannah “the other mass shooting.”

I have mixed feelings on this. I’m glad that Savannah’s skyrocketing crime rate is getting some national attention (seriously, guys, this town is riddled with crime), though I’m sad our town is getting attention for something like this. Mostly, though, I’m angry at the Post’s shoddy reporting when they say this:

The local media barely acknowledged the murder: One local television station covered it in three paragraphs.

And the world spun on.

Full disclosure: I am technically a member of the “local media” since I edit the listings for Connect. We do a pretty decent job of adding crime stories like this to the News Feed, which is why this claim first struck me. I decided to do a bit of independent research and rely on my trusty friend: time stamps.

The Post’s story was published at 6:31 p.m. By that time, several local media had posted their versions of the story. The first outlet to send out a story was actually WTOC, whose time stamp shows the story was posted at 1:53 a.m., about thirty minutes after the shots were fired. Their story was updated at 9:19 p.m., presumably after more information had been released.

WJCL‘s story was live at 6:14 a.m. and updated at 5:02 p.m.

WSAV, the only outlet mentioned by the Post, had its story go live at 6:26 a.m., after two other outlets had already reported the same information.

The Savannah Morning News‘ story on the shooting was also live by then, having been posted at 7:05 a.m. Their story was updated at 6:35 p.m., four minutes after the Post’s story.

Connect‘s story wasn’t posted until 6:43 p.m. I’m not sure if it had been posted before that because our blogging system doesn’t show multiple time stamps, but I don’t recall it being posted while I was in the office.

The Post also writes that there were three lines written in WSAV’s story. Because of the other stories’ edits, I can’t see how much detail was first added (I guess I could do it through caches, but I’m not that stressed out about it). I’m not sure what the Post expected from the local media: the names seem to have been released around 6:30 p.m., so there were over twelve hours without any new information.

If the Post is trying to compare this incident with the San Bernardino incident in terms of reporting, let’s consider this: the scene in San Bernardino was still considered active long after the first shots were fired. The shooters came into an office building to interrupt a meeting. It also happened in broad daylight. The scene in Savannah was much different. It happened in the dead of night in a sketchy party of town, as one local blogger explains here. The shooters seem to have left afterwards, and police are still trying to piece together what happened. They don’t even know what kind of car they’re looking for, or if there was a car. They’re just asking for tips.

The two incidents are as different as night and day (pun absolutely intended). Still, I think it’s a bit lazy that the Post is trying to pass off WSAV as the only outlet to report on a story when, in actuality, all media outlets in Savannah reported on it. (The only outlet not reporting on the shooting is the Stone Stairs page, which is the only place any locals get our news these days. I’m only kind of joking.)

I’m really curious as to how the Washington Post only found WSAV. Is it one of those things where, on Facebook, Savannah was trending and WSAV was at the top of the news aggregate? If so, why wouldn’t WTOC appear at the top since their page is Facebook verified and have two verified personalities (Ben Williamson and Don Logana)? (Wouldn’t that be the point of getting a page Facebook-verified, so it would maximize SEO and push one source to the top of the list? If that’s not the point, what is it?) Who tipped the Washington Post off to Savannah’s shooting, anyway? Was it WSAV themselves?

I’m at a loss here, because it seems like the Post only checked one media outlet for the news and then decided to indict Savannah’s local media as knowing nothing when we actually all reported on what we knew. (Everyone but Connect reported on it within a reasonable time frame, so as far as the Post should have been concerned, every outlet but one reported it.) In fact, I wouldn’t be so upset about this if the tone wasn’t so inflammatory. “And the world spun on”? Our world isn’t spinning on here in Savannah. We reported on it, we add another scary unsolvable crime to our blotter, we updated the posts, and now we wait for an answer. We’ve done our jobs as best we could, and whether other outlets picked up on it or not is not our burden to bear.

I don’t consider this situation “barely acknowledged,” and while our community does seem to be desensitized to this random violence that just happens here, I don’t think any well-informed person has not heard of this shooting today. It’s no credit to the Washington Post.

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