A message for the media from an Aurora shooting survivor: "Give victims and survivors their space"

"Student, writer, and self-identifying geek" A.J. Focht, writing on a Suicide Girls blog, talks about the experience of surviving the recent mass shooting at "The Dark Knight Rises" premiere at an Aurora, CO movie theater— and, how a friend and fellow survivor was hounded by content-hungry television producers:

With only a small charge left in her phone one of the members of my group thought it best to send out a blanket distress beacon via Twitter so she could conserve her battery to call her parents and a ride home. Caitlin tweeted from her account @dingos8myTARDIS informing her family and friends of the chaos and that she was physically alright. Her tweets were some of the first online, and within the hour BBC, CNN, and others were broadcasting her messages on the news. The hundreds of media outlets that contacted her throughout the night were unexpected, but we could understand they were just trying to do their jobs. Once we had been released, Caitlin, not wanting the mass media attention, released these tweets:

dingos8myTARDIS: To the media: I was tweeting earlier because my phone was on 10%batt & I needed to let people know I was okay. I am (in) no shape for interviews.

dingos8myTARDIS: To rephrase: I have no interest in interviews at this time. I was merely sending an emergency beacon.

Despite her requesting to be left alone, she was perpetually bombarded by yet more media requests via Twitter from outlets including FOX News and The Huffington Post. As if the mass attention on Twitter was not enough, other news networks took it upon themselves to get her phone number and start calling her.

While we all sat anxiously awaiting information on the MIA member of our group, phones and email notifications continued go off till all our phones had died. Before even our families and friends had a chance to check in, the overzealous reporters were all but knocking on our doors. Right after our group finally learned our missing member didn't make it, Caitlin's phone began to ring; It was the Today Show on the other end requesting an interview about him. She told them off and asked them not to contact her again. However, her pleas didn't stop them from calling again the next morning, still trying to get an interview.

Focht is among those who wish that media would "stop showing" images of the suspected killer. There's a balance for news outlets to strike in cases like this; there's informing, and there's exploitation. For the record, we at Boing Boing have refrained from publishing the image, because there's no real need for us to.

Read the rest: "Back Row Perspective Part 1: An Aurora Theater Survivor’s Message to the Media."

There's a second piece, well worth reading, with words for the politicians who seek to capitalize on the massacre.


  1. Sadly, in the end, we the consumers are to blame for the actions of the media. We’ve made it clear that their current actions in times like this earn them ratings and profits. If enough if us made the effort not to support this kind of reporting, things would change. Of course, that’s the case with damn near every problem in the world. 

    1. [Reposting here, in the intended reply]

        It’s complicated to say the least, but you are totally correct.  If it bleeds it ledes, and media outlets tend to politicize to whet the appetite of their specific demographics.  There needs to be more non-profit news out there, but you can’t stop people from enjoying the drivel of the evening and 24 “news commentary”.  Sigh…

      I made a decision to stop all intake of TV news a few years ago.  I realized I was not learning anything from it and I was getting worked up instead.  Life is better without it, without that “rush” of being riled up.

  2. It’s not my place to say she should, but I would love to see one of these people accept the invitation and then recount how awful the behavior of the press has been once they’re on camera.

    1.  I was thinking the exact same thing. A little bad press and wasted time and money seems like the only thing that would get the point across.

  3. I’ve seen the scummy media firsthand at the makeshift memorial across the street from the theatre practically tripping over each other to capture “intimate moments”, etc.

    I was there when that guy played taps on his trumpet on top of the hill and the media literally ran over to him before he could even finish playing.  Actually, within seconds of him starting to play they bolted over there like dogs rushing for scraps that fall under a dinner table.

    I asked one of the guys from the media why they don’t give all this attention as well to all the Americans that die in agony every day for the crime of not being able to afford health insurance.  He basically shrugged and blamed “the media”.  I just walked away…

    I will say this, many of the press members do keep a respectable distance and don’t bother people while they are crying, etc. – so it wasn’t every member of the press I’m talking about here.

  4. Focht is among those who wish that media would “stop showing” images of the suspected killer.

    There is a relationship between copycat suicides and news reporting on suicides. For this reason most news organizations don’t report individual suicides.

    I’m willing to bet there is a relationship between these mass shootings and media coverage as well. I think the media needs to develop a set of guidelines for reporting on these shooters to rob them of their fame.

  5. We live in a world where we have to tell people to stop bombarding survivors of mass shootings with harassing communications for money. Wow.

  6. The sad part is that these are the same lessons that they were supposed to have learned years ago with the Columbine Massacre and 9/11.    The MSM obviously has no intention of changing things.  

  7. Refreshing.  And to get all meta (cause we all like that so much), I very much appreciate how she remained non-partisan and non-hot-button issue focused in her criticism.  She wrote about some very real, very human wrongs that happened to these grieving families/victims, and that was the agenda.

    Something really disturbed me as I read and thought about her second article though.  She mentions how Mr. Obama visited the grieving and how great that was and my first thought was:

    “CO is a swing State, how ironic and naive that she is praising a politician for doing very visible, positive things in a swing state during an election year”.

    And then my second that was something along the lines of “how fucked up is that I just thought that”.  But hold on, I’m not done.  I think the REALLY fucked up thing is that I can’t trust or know for sure that any government leader in this country (politician) would actually just go do something because he thinks it’s a good thing to do.  Not during an election year anyways. 

    Here is my most current thought:  Perhaps this distrust is simply an inherent quality of institutionalizing a melting pot nation.  And I don’t mean that in a bad way.  Here me out.  Most nations developed into geo-political entities because of the growing size of the known world and the need to interact with other such entities.  They all started out as people groups.  Tribes, distinct cultures, whatever – they all started out as groups of people who gathered together because of their traditions and values.

    The government of the USA is like the Anti-People Group.  That is, any person from any culture/tribe is welcome here and they all have the same rights, and CANNOT (easily) pass laws that restrict other cultures/tribes.  Here’s my point – ***the government in the USA is a body of people who represent people from all sorts of different background***.  Our “national character” in the USA is a phony thing.  Each and every people group in America needs its own leaders to shape and shift their own culture.  All the while we have a body of representatives who abide by procedural law and deal with domestic problems.

    In a melting pot nation, I don’t think it is healthy or possible to look to our elected representatives as cultural leaders.  Boom, I said it.

  8. Slightly different topic than my last comment, but very closely related – I just want say that I think this is a really good thing about the USA which everybody seems to forget or disregard – the US is the first nation to ever welcome all cultures and specifically impede the task of writing traditions or morals into law.

    Think about that.  This is the basis of freedom of speech/religion/thought.  In America, Rights are not dependent on ethnic background, genealogy, cultural membership, or EVEN CITIZENSHIP.

    Yes, people have hijacked these institutional values and problems exist, but this is one kick-ass country to live in.

  9. CraigyFerg’s opener gave me chills.  THIS is why he’s the best on Late Night TV.  He is the ONLY genuine late-night talk show host.

    I hope he NEVER takes over Dave Letterman.
    And this woman is brave.  Very brave.  I hope people listen.

  10. A.J. Focht is male, he writes a weekly column for the blog.


    He makes very compelling points about the media making this worse for everyone, and it stands in stark contrast to the story here on BB about Merideth whatever from NBC who can’t be bothered to spend the time to figure out why someone is being honored at the Olympics.

    They dug into the shooting with gusto, and filled in blanks with whatever they could cram in to get better coverage.  They can’t Google a single man’s name to find out he has done something amazing worthy of getting a nod at the Olympics.

    When we consider how screwed up the media is, one needs to consider it is just a reflection of society.  We demand more and more, they give it to us and we have a cycle pulling us all to the bottom.  Seeing how far we have fallen in what passes for news and journalism from what was it should be way more disturbing.  Hafltruths and outright lies called news, all to play for more eyes watching them or to further a political message that benefits the owners.

    I think its time we demand our souls back from the devil.

  11.  when i first realized that the gun control debate was starting up i realized we were going to hit the same dead end here.  While stricter gun control is needed, what would seriously cut down the number of events like this from happening is how it is reported in the media.  While free press is a right that cannot be argued any differently than the right to bear arms, in situations like this the government needs to step in and censor the media from publishing details of the shooter, his motive and possibly anything else related to his part in the crime in order to protect those remaining victims, or even to allowing the suspect to have a fair trial if the person happens to be truly innocent.  This type of censorship would be perhaps the only way to reduce the number of senseless killings from happening, simply because it bans people from achieving infamy.  

    Freedom of speech is a right, knowing what not to say it truly abiding by the spirit of the law. 

  12. “but we could understand they were just trying to do their jobs.”

    Media conglomerates so badly needed to make 3 extra sentences of content so they could scrape some banner ad revenue! Give them a break!

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