It is appropriate to grieve for the shooting victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Conn. It is appropriate to imagine their families' grief, to be with them in spirit and to think about how we would handle it if we were in their shoes. After all, we might be, someday, and some forethought now might help us behave properly then.
But let's not wallow in this town's sadness, or go overboard with tributes to the deceased. So far, what people in the Adirondacks have done seems fine, but we've heard of a few efforts outside the Blue Line that, while charitable in spirit, make us cringe a little. We can all be Newtowners in solidarity without making the real Newtowners feel awkward.
Some people want to give money at a time like this, which can present problems. Here's a relevant comment from John Voket, associate editor of the weekly Newtown Bee, in a letter he wrote to news colleagues in the wake of the shooting.
"The outpouring of support has been, and continues to be overwhelming. But it has created opportunities for scams and legitimate organizations that are taking pass-through and/or processing expenses before delivering donations being made.
"Newtown Savings Bank has assured me through its president and CEO that its survivors fund will be distributing 100 percent of every donation to assure the immediate victims are being cared for - including any expenses related to specialized counselors and responders who need to be brought in and put up in close proximity to Newtown. I will be discussing with them in the near future ideas about how any future surplus from donations can continue to serve victims and especially children affected by this and other similar tragedies."
Also regarding our fellow journalists, it is right for them to give the nation an accurate sense of this town's grief and to find out more about killer Adam Lanza, and how and why he did this horrific deed. But it is not appropriate for packs of them to set up shop there and hound the locals for tear-jerker comments or shreds of memories of Adam Lanza - things that add no news of value to the public but which sensationalize and cause Newtowners to retreat into their shells.
The Newtown Bee, the first journalistic entity on the scene of the shooting, has urged its colleagues, cordially and correctly, to leave grieving families alone as they bury their dead. Granted, some families initially agreed to tell the stories of their loved ones to reporters as a positive way of working through their grief, but many incidents of unwanted harassment have reportedly taken place since then. At this point, the initiative to talk should be left up to to the families.
We were also disappointed with the amount of inaccuracy from mainstream media on Friday as news of the shooting came out. The killer was misidentified as his brother, there were false reports that their mother worked at the school and that Adam Lanza left the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle in the car, and the death toll was all over the place. Most of these inaccurate details came from anonymous sources and were reported without waiting for verification. We understand how inaccuracy can happen, having gotten plenty of things wrong over the years, but the quantity of error here suggested that the professional need to get it right was thrown out the window in a general, competitive rush to feed a thunderstruck nation's hunger for news. Sure, the truth came out in time for newspaper and evening TV news deadlines, but American journalism is much better than it showed itself that day.
It's probably not good to let young children get a big dose of this news. It's natural to shield them from it. Who wants these raw images and details to become the stuff of nightmares? On the other hand, once your kids know, counselors say it's probably best to make yourself available to answer their questions honestly - while reassuring them that such incidents are rare and that you'll do everything possible to protect them.
And it's totally appropriate, in light of the shooting, to give your kids extra hugs and tell them you love them.