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Media Trend: Emotional TV Coverage Of Mass Shootings

Shortly after a gunman stormed a Louisville bank on Monday, Hayley Minogue, the co-anchor of the WHAS 11 morning news show “Good Morning Kentuckiana,” interviewed a survivor who had blood on his shirt. She held his hand as they talked. “Have you called your people?” Minogue of WHAS 11 asked. When the survivor said no, because he left his belongings inside the bank, Minogue replied, “Do you need my phone?” Monogue's colleague, Eric King, warned viewers in the area of nearly 600,000 residents, “we’re going to know somebody at some point that’s affected by this,” reports the Washington Post. One of those who knew victims was Olivia Russell, a reporter at WAVE News. During her live shot, she told viewers: “I know people have been texting me and unfortunately I even know people who were involved and injured in this shooting and that’s where it just really hits home.”

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It was part of a growing trend: empathetic and emotional news coverage from local journalists covering mass killings. It is a striking contrast to the more traditional and distanced television reports from New York and Washington, far from the live scene. On local news programs after shootings, viewers see teary eyes, hear cracked voices, and watch in real time as familiar faces process the unthinkable. In February a reporter in Orlando broke down on air while reporting on the fatal shooting of a fellow journalist. Last month, a rotating crew of reporters at News Channel 5 Nashville disclosed direct connections to the Covenant School, where a shooter killed three 9-year-olds and three adults before being killed by police. A Fox News reporter in Denver interrupted her live coverage of a high school shooting to hug her son, a student there. “There’s no way you would have let your kid walk by [without hugging them],” said reporter Alicia Acuna. As Gen Z — dubbed the “mass shooting generation” by one of its members, Rep. Max Frost (D-Fla.) — enters the workforce, a new crop of reporters are showing their own experience with gun violence. While reporting on the Covenant School shooting, reporter Joylyn Bukovac said in a WSMV4 segment, “I’m actually a school shooting survivor.”

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