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Newtown 911 Calls Released


Its the day no one can forget and most dont want to remember, but this week relatives of the 26 people shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut will relive those moments.  Parents of the 20 children who died that day fought to keep 9-1-1 tapes private, but today police were forced to release some of the recordings after several media outlets sued to have the tapes made public.  Its a debate that pits the publics right to know against the wishes of the families to move on with their lives in peace.


Charles Munro, the Associate Director of Undergraduate Students at the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communications says its part of the job.  Hes taught college for the last decade and reminds students theyll one day be put in a position to make tough calls without crossing the line.  Munro says the Sandy Hook case is no different than a local newspaper editor deciding to run the photo of a fatal accident, knowing the victims family will be upset.   I think what's happened now is there's almost an expectation for people that if there are going to be 9-1-1 tapes, 9-1-1 recordings that people are going to expect to hear it. 


At respected journalism schools like Iowa and Iowa State, reporters are taught ethics and to not pander to prurient interests .. in other words, not to throw something on television simply for the sleaze factor or shock value.

But some of you commenting on our Facebook page say thats exactly what the Newtown tapes represent.  Sarah says They will just be used to put money in pockets.  Those families deserve better.  Mary Jo writes It just opens up the healing wounds of broken hearts.  And Mile posts Why does everything have to be a matter of public record.  Common decency is becoming a rare thing.   Parents of those who lost children in the shootings are devastated.  Dylan Hockleys mom, Nicole says shes disappointed and sees no value in releasing the tapes.   I do worry about our children and families listening to this in the future.


Some journalists argue the recordings are the only way to evaluate if first responders made the right decisions that day and to silence those who continue to float conspiracy theories about the attack on Sandy Hook.  Munro reminds us that part of a journalists job is to inform and help viewers, listeners and readers learn.  He says consider the 9-1-1 tapes from the Treyvon Martin case and what they revealed.  Just think for a moment about these recordings weve heard .. in almost all cases theres something weve learned .. in almost all cases.  Munro adds that social media also seems to influence decisions like the release of the 9-1-1 tapes as more people have a voice to demand proof of events, no matter how unpleasant they might be.


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