Remembering Columbine : A Reflection on Good Journalism

Meant to post this on Monday but it got saved to my drafts instead. My apologies for its slightly delayed newsworthy-ness but I have some comments to add from lecture today anyway. 

The shooting at Columbine happened when I was 6 years old, meaning that I knew almost nothing about it when it happened. In fact, I don’t even remember hearing about it, most likely because my parents shielded me from it. Therefore, I’ve grown up with very little knowledge of the shooting. Last week was the 15th anniversary of the shooting and Time re-released their magazine article on it, The Littleton Massacre… In Sorrow and Disbelief.

It was quite an undertaking because it was by no means short (nor should it have been) but I was absolutely shocked by the level of detail and beautiful language about something so tragic. I think the author Nancy Gibbs took a nightmare situation and treated it with dignity. I understood the horror that those students experienced.


Today, Hampton Stevens said something that I think fully captures why I enjoyed this piece so much. Hampton said that he thinks good journalism is good writing, that he enjoys precise language rather than just a well-reported story or life-changing subject. Not to say that those things aren’t important but that he appreciates journalism that are ultimately a great demonstration of prose.

I think that The Littleton Massacre… In Sorrow and Disbelief combines both great writing and a life-changing subject, which is hard to do. I imagine it being rather difficult to capture this spectrum of a tragedy with the intense amount of coverage this must have received at the time.

I also want to mention something else Hampton said, which is that he enjoys journalism that “moves” him and to this, I connect with perfectly. Someone can write a perfect story that’s well-sourced, well-reported, accurate and ethical. But if it doesn’t move me in some physical or emotional way, it will just get lost in the sea of my brain that is constantly being filled with new stories. It’s stories like these that I will remember 2,5,10 years from now when I reflect on great journalism.


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