Newtown overwhelmed by media

News trucks on Church Hill Road News trucks line the streets near Sandy Hook Elementary

"Go home, please, go home, all of you."

The man standing in front of me in the lobby of my hotel was not in the slightest bit aggressive, but he was very clear.

"It's unbearable. What do you all want? I know four or five of the families who lost kids and it's too much for them, with all the media here. What do you all want?"

Most of the rest of the lobby - and much of the hotel - was taken up by notebook-wielding, fleece-wearing, camera-toting journalists. But that's just the start.

The village of Sandy Hook, the centre of which is little more than a crossroads, has been transformed.

A changed town

It seems like a nice place - a classic little New England village, with white wooden houses and good-looking shops.

But it is difficult to know what it is actually like because, early on Saturday, it had been transformed into a set, a backdrop for the vast swarm of journalists that had descended on the place.

The main street, Church Hill Road, that leads towards Sandy Hook Elementary school, was grinding with bumper-to-bumper cars that it is difficult to imagine are there every - or any - day.

Start Quote

I have covered stories for 15 years in the field, some of the biggest, and have never seen anything like this, nor felt so uncomfortable about being part of it.”

End Quote

In the small car park in front of the Methodist church, satellite trucks belted out noise and exhaust fumes; up and down the street cameramen roamed, filming the traffic, filming the shops, filming each other.

At the bottom of Church Hill Road, where the hill begins to climb up toward the firehouse and the school, there were more satellite trucks and live positions for television correspondents.

On Saturday a few shops had pinned notices to their doors, and one or two lampposts had messages of sorrow and condolence.

Today, a shrine of candles and teddy bears and messages attracts a steady flow of visitors, many filmed and interviewed by the omnipresent camera crews.

Up by the firehouse, by the sign for Sandy Hook Elementary School ("Visitors Welcome"), there are more TV live positions.

In the overflow area are dozens and dozens and dozens more satellite vans.

Media footprint

Normally we journalists are the ones pressing our noses to the glass, reporting on what we see. Here it is the residents of the town who, driving very slowly in the staggering traffic jam look on, amazed at the freak show that has descended.

Media hold near the firehouse at Sandy Hook

I have covered stories for 15 years in the field, some of the biggest, and have never seen anything like this, nor felt so uncomfortable about being part of it.

There are hundreds upon hundreds of journalists here, all of us searching for a new angle on a story that, really, came and went in a few terrible minutes on Friday morning.

How much more is there to say about such horror?

Perhaps not much.

On Saturday, in the space of 10 maybe 15 minutes, whilst I tried vainly to persuade members of a Newtown women's club to do an interview, I saw a placard-carrying woman by the roadside approached, filmed, photographed by more than a dozen different cameramen and journalists.

For good or ill, I do understand the machinery of news. The BBC alone has four 24-hour news channels (two radio, two TV, one each respectively for domestic and international audiences) along with three TV news bulletins a day, four radio news programmes most days, radio news bulletins, summaries and our online operation.

None of these outlets is catered for without correspondents and producers, cameramen and technicians.

Throw in ITN, Sky, Channel 4 and the newspapers - one broadsheet sent four correspondents - and British outlets alone must have sent 100 people to this tiny place.

And the American networks and cable new channels must each have sent dozens of staff here, for their news bulletins and their programmes; CNN has rolled from Newtown pretty much non-stop since the massacre. On the networks, programme after programme has been anchored from the town.

There's no denying that this is an astonishing event that audiences want to know about.

But our footprint in tiny Sandy Hook is exceptionally heavy. And after a while, you have to wonder what more there is to say.

The children have gone. Their poor parents are grieving. The police are saying very little.

Some reporting comes close to repeatedly ripping a sticking plaster off. Watch or listen or read too much, and it feels as if we are wallowing in other people's pain.

Go home, the man in the lobby said, go home. And very soon, I will.

UPDATE: Jonny Dymond left Newtown on the night of 17 December, shortly after posting this blog.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    Glad to see you have left. It's getting very ghoulish having the media take pictures at every funeral and interview young children. Enough is enough. Let's not give the perp any more notoriety.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    I have stopped watching this on the news having seen very young children from the school being interviewed about their experience. This was very disturbing indeed and I do not want to see anymore - it's about time the journos left these people in peace - no audience, no performance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    "So. Now that your child has been shot.
    How do you feel?
    Can we stick a camera in your house too?"

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    154 Horace.

    Yeah, Warziristan is a long way from Connecticut, in more ways than one. Some people want to keep it that way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    If any journo is looking for something to do, they could do worse than going and camping outside one of Mitt Romney's houses - that would probably work out at one house each for the BBC team to cover them all - and trying to get a comment from him about gun control.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    We have created an insane society

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    "notebook-wielding, ... camera-toting journalists"

    Have you no shame? As a journalist, do you not realise the power of words? This killer is, in part, a creation of the media. How many mass shootings were there before 24 hour news?

    I feel ashamed to have read this article and contributed to its existence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    A eureka moment Jonny.

    Too many jurnos looking for award winning reporting opportunities.

    We don't need to see people's obvious and private reactions to this dreadful event.

    Leave with some dignity and chase criminals and politicians instead

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    Is writing about what must be glaring obvious to all but the most dense something to be congratulated about?
    I would be more impressed if he said that he had after all the years he has been doing it finally woken up and realised that there is no "Public Interest" in such behaviour, and promised never to do it again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    You must have some collective policy about how to respond to moments of brutal bereavement, if just to protect the bereaved. What is it? Who is your reporting for? Do you consult your interviewees and your readers? What do they want? What goes through your head while you're reporting? Where do your first responsibilities lie? Do you consciously seek out angles? Tell us. Be honest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    Well done Jonny.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    From an outsider's perspective, it does very often seem as if the first requirement of being a journalist is a complete absence of empathy, and the second requirement is a near-insatiable lust for drama and/or tragedy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    The media, especially in the US. are quite the vultures. Just remember the little girl in Ohio during the past election who just wanted the media circus to end.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    There are many here in the US who feel that:
    A. The media are piranha eating away at the dignity and the privacy of these devastated villagers in this most horrible of times, and
    B. That the coverage spawns more attacks, like a man arrested here in Southern California for posting to Facebook a threat to shoot up multiple elementary schools.
    Have a safe trip home...

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    Yes, Jonny, listen to that gut feeling you have and leave these poor people alone! Haven't they suffered enough? Go and hunt down the gun lobby and the morons in the NRA instead and don't let them get away with silence this time! Don't let them bide their time until this has faded a little from people's minds and they can crawl out again with their revolting message. Force them out. Now!

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    Well done for listening to the people in Newtown Jonny.Lets leave these people to grieve and then hopefully to move on.God bless the souls of the departed and of the people left behind.Tragic,desperately tragic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    It is pretty hard to find this story on the BBC site. Unless, that is, you were reading about the Newtown massacre in the first place.

    If we keep reading about it, they will keep sending correspondents to write about it. It seems to me that this is still news and we're all buying in.

    Who drives past a road accident and does not sneak a look? Not us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    131. colu-romantic
    "This publicity is what the next mass killer at a school will crave."

    Spot-on. It is the media circus that CAUSES these crimes. Without these vultures to feed, Lanza may have decided to do something else, and may not even have killed at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    You're a lucky man, Mr, Dymond.
    If, at my life's worst moments, a reporter had shoved a microphone at me and asked me how I felt, I'd have hit him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    This dreadful killing is no longer news. There is no need to keep reporting every little personal detail that can be found.

    That doesn't mean I or anyone else don't care about it. But we already know what happened.

    Switch to reporting the gun law debate. That's news.

    Hounding or stalking grieving families and neighbours is hardly the pinnacle of journalism.


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