Newtown to media: Stay away on anniversary

At a news conference Monday, Newtown First Selectman Patricia Llodra had a message for the national and international media looking to cover the one-year anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School: Stay away.

“Please respect our need to be alone,” Llodra said. “To be quiet and to have that personal time to continue on our journey of grief in the way that serves us.”

It appears many media outlets are doing just that. Virtually all major U.S. cable and network news organizations — which flooded the town of 27,000 in the days and weeks following the tragedy — do not plan to have a presence in Newtown on Dec. 14, one year after 20-year-old gunman Adam Lanza went on a rampage at the elementary school, killing 20 children and six adults before turning a gun on himself.

CNN, which had a major presence in Newtown following the shootings, said it does not plan to have anyone there. The network is airing a one-hour special, “Newtown: One Year Later,” hosted by Anderson Cooper, on Wednesday.

NBC News, which hosted several days’ and nights’ worth of programming from Newtown last December, is also respecting the town’s wishes.

“You defer to the wishes of the families,” Frank Sesno, former CNN anchor and currently director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, said Monday. “There are many, many ways to cover this story without being there.”

It’s not only TV choosing not to go to Newtown. New York Magazine and The New York Times, which both did extensive reporting in the wake of the shootings, did their reporting well in advance of Dec. 14.

“We’ve reported a number of stories already — all in a low-key, respectful manner — and they’ll run in conjunction with the anniversary,” a spokeswoman for the Times told Yahoo News. (Yahoo News has also chosen not to have a physical presence in Newtown on Dec. 14.)

At a town meeting earlier this month, Llodra and other town officials said they would have extra police on duty around the anniversary, mostly for increased traffic.

“Our village of Sandy Hook was harmed almost irreparably by the chokehold that media traffic had on us for 10 days during the buying season of the year for those shops,” Llodra said. “And there is the emotional impact — clearly to be reminded in such a stark way of this horrible anniversary — we don’t need this. We live this every day, we know what happened here.”

“We don’t want to see the blockages that we had for 10 days straight after 12/14,” Newtown Police Chief Michael Kehoe added. “You can be sure there will be parking restrictions, extra officers. But we’re hoping because of the messages we are sending today that we will not need those restrictions.”

Monday’s press conference was one of two media events held in Newtown Monday, part of the town’s plan to alleviate the need for media outlets to be there on the anniversary itself.

“Please do not be alarmed or concerned if you see a number of media trucks,” a notice alerting residents to Monday’s press conferences reads. “Over the past few weeks, we have held a number of press events, hoping that media outlets will respect our request to stay away from town over the weekend of December 14, and thereafter, if we give them opportunities to develop news stories in advance of that anniversary date.”

“We’re trying to respect the world’s interest in us, and we certainly have benefited from that interest in many ways,” Llodra said. “[But] we pay a price when the media is here.

“We can’t choose to not have this horrible thing happen to us,” she added. “It happened. We cannot make it unhappen. But we can choose how we react to it.

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Eric Write head editor and chief at The Pluto Daily