Canada Just Showed the US the Exact Right Way to Cover a Shooting
On Wednesday morning, news emerged that a gunman shot and killed a soldier at the Canada War Memorial in Ottawa before firing more than 30 shots inside the nearby parliament building. While police have confirmed that the gunman is dead, they described the situation as "ongoing." At this time, it's also unclear whether other suspects are involved.
Given the seriousness of the situation — Canadian MP Kyle Seeback called it a "horrific day" — and given the relative rarity of public shootings in Canada, a media circus would not have been entirely unexpected. Yet CBC, one of Canada's premiere news organizations, had other ideas.
Rather than the hysterical, high-pitched squealing of some American networks, CBC assumed a miraculously calm tone. As Media Bistro's Mark Joyella noted, "the rolling coverage was smart, careful, and absolutely un-American."
Covering a crisis with poise. Breaking news like this are exceedingly difficult to cover well, and they require astronomically high levels of good judgment and instinct. The story (which is still developing) has been full of dramatic twists and turns, and it's far from over.
But rather than play into the potential for hysteria, CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge never lost his cool. Mansbridge presented information in a calm, collected and respectful manner, and he was extremely careful to report facts — particularly as they related to the soldier's death — rather than unconfirmed information.
Take this transcript, courtesy of Mother Jones:
MANSBRIDGE: And so, the situation is, as we say, tense and unclear. And it's on days like this—we keep reminding you of this and it's important—it's on days like this, where a story takes a number of different pathways, a number of changes occur, and often rumors start in a situation like this.
Contrast this with CNN's coverage, which was...well, full of raised voices and dramatic retellings:
Mansbridge was everything you want a news anchor to be in a situation like this: Exceedingly cautious but not boring and assured but not over-confident. Most importantly of all, he engendered the trust of his audience rather than beat them over the head with drama.
Canada has taught us this lesson before. In June, following the shooting of three Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers in New Brunswick, Sun News Network refused to show the shooter's name or picture.
"It's easy to report on the life of the killer, to scour his deranged Facebook page, to speculate about motive, but doing so could actually encourage the perception that his heinous acts are somehow justified," the network explained in an editorial. "We will not help give this killer his blaze of glory."
As Mic's Matt Connolly wrote at the time, the decision was " a conversation that should happen in every newsroom in the wake of such a tragedy."
When it came to Wednesday's shooting, the Canadian media proved once again that it has its head on straight.