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One year later, what’s the status of the investigation into the Covenant School shooting?

One year later, what’s the status of the investigation into the Covenant School shooting?

In the year since the Covenant School shootings, authorities — think FBI — have said they cannot release the manifesto and diaries of shooter Audrey (Aiden) Hale because they are relevant to ongoing investigations.

If that is the case, then it’s safe to assume that these investigations are real. If they are not real, then that’s a stunning fact in and of itself.

Thus, in this week’s “Crossroads” podcast, host Todd Wilken and I argued that the status of these investigations, and the status of the Hale papers, was one of several valid stories that needed to be covered on the one-year anniversary of that horrific event.

Click for Crossroads podcast

In fact, if journalists were looking for a fresh news hook, they could have covered this important topic less than a week earlier (this is a Fox News headline): “Judge orders FBI to hand over trans school shooter Audrey Hale’s manifesto.The key paragraph:

The FBI sought to have the complaint dismissed, but Judge Aleta Trauger of the Middle District of Tennessee said the bureau had failed to support its position “with sufficient clarity or detail” and ordered it to submit the manifesto to the court, so she could review the materials.

Here is the big “Crossroads” question: What is THE story, or the MAIN story, on the anniversary of the Covenant School shootings? What is the “what” in that familiar journalism mantra — “who, what, when, where, why and how”?

Consider the top of the big Tennessean report: “Nashville Covenant School shooting: Students, staff to mark anniversary with private event.” What is the main story here?

It has been a year since three students and three staff members — 9-year-olds Evelyn Dieckhaus, William Kinney and Hallie Scruggs, headmaster Katherine Koonce, custodian Mike Hill and substitute teacher Cynthia Peak — at the Covenant School were gunned down in a mass shooting.

There have been vigils, rallies and cries for stricter gun control. Two legislators were expelled, and ultimately reappointed, for their protests on the House floor. And despite a special session, no major action was taken on gun control in Tennessee. Community members are are still calling for change a year later.

The victims were gunned down, but — in this coverage — there was no named shooter and no investigations into why Hale did what she/he did. The real story, at this point? Battles over gun-control legislation. The Tennessean also covered other stories about grief, the school’s recovery process and other valid angles.

Readers can see a similar approach in this package at the Nashville Axios website. It did mention that “a former student armed with multiple firearms carved a path of destruction through the little school on the hill.”

The coverage focused on lots of important news angles in the overarching story. But why ignore the shooter’s motives and the controversial and mysterious Hale documents? What are the core issues that journalists are striving to avoid?

Take a guess.

Enjoy the podcast and, please, pass it along to others.


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