Sunday, July 29, 2012

Shame on You, Wolf Blitzer

I've always known that the media is not completely accurate in their reporting, but I had no idea how bad it really is until this week in the aftermath of the Aurora shootings.

This is the first time in my life - and hopefully the last - that I am in a situation where I have personal knowledge of the actual facts in a huge media story.  I'm sad to realize that journalism - a profession I used to respect and admire - is at a very low point. Some in the media do not care at all if what they say is true - it's all about sensationalism.  What happened to the days of checking sources?  What happened to the days of checking facts before putting information out to the public that doesn't even make sense if anyone stopped to think about it?

The public's right to know is important, but it's not the only thing that counts in a tragedy of the magnitude of the Aurora shootings.  And certainly the public has a right to know only accurate facts, not any old thing that any anonymous source wants to put out there.  

PhD students in science work long hours in the lab and, in most institutions, are supplied a modest living stipend so they do not have to find other employment that would detract from their dissertation studies.  When my husband was a graduate student in the Paleolithic Era, he received $300 per month on the same type of NIH training grant that supports many graduate students today.  This was enough to pay our rent and buy food back then. Currently, the science graduate students here receive a living stipend of $26,000 per year, which probably covers normal living expenses such as rent, food, utilities, gas and car insurance, but leaves little left over.  I'm guessing that today's graduate students are able to live like we did on our $300 per month - very frugally.

Consequently, I was shocked to see Wolf Blitzer do a story titled "Paying for the Weapons."  Scrolled across the screen was "Thousands in Taxpayer-Funded Money." The story went on to say that the shooter got "thousands of dollars" from taxpayers like you and me, the implication being that he bought his instruments of destruction with taxpayer money.  It is true that the shooter was on an NIH training grant that pays a little more than $2,000 per month.  But it seems irresponsible to me to link this very worthwhile science training program with one obviously disturbed individual who spent between $10,000 and $15,000 on guns, ammunition, etc.  He obviously had credit cards because he ordered a lot of his materials online.  How can CNN (and all of the other news organizations who followed their lead) know where this money came from or if in fact the shooter just ran up big credit card debt?  Why would they even try to make this connection between federal dollars and his destructive spending spree?

I've always felt like Fox News doesn't really care if they make stuff up, but I expected better from others.  I have now sworn off CNN too.  If the result of this horrible event is that NIH training grants are banned as dangerous and gun sales continue to rise, I'm just going to give up.

Shame on you, Wolf Blitzer, and all the others just like you.

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