Posted in Poynter
July 13, 2022

Why KVUE and the Austin American-Statesman released video of the Uvalde school shooting

Poynter

KVUE Austin and the Austin American-Statesman released Tuesday portions of the never-before-seen 77-minute video from inside the Robb Elementary School where an 18-year-old with a rifle killed 19 students and two teachers on May 24.

The video shows how police quickly entered the school after the man began shooting, but did not confront the shooter for more than an hour while they stood in the hallway just outside the classroom where he was holed up.

As the Statesman explained, “The video has been the subject of an intense political debate, with Gov. Greg Abbott and the Uvalde mayor urging its public release and the Uvalde County district attorney opposing releasing it, apparently citing an active investigation into the shooting.”

KVUE broke into its afternoon TV programming Tuesday. KVUE anchor Bryan Mayes told the audience, “We are interrupting programming this afternoon with some breaking news that we feel is really important to our viewers. But also really difficult. KVUE has reached the point in our reporting on the Uvalde mass shooting where we are prepared to show the public, for the very first time, video from inside Robb Elementary School.”

Mayes went on to say, “Now we’re doing this, for these people, for their families in Uvalde for the people of the city and, really, for the people of the state of Texas who have been desperate to learn what happened inside that school back in May.”

The station aired the video in a few clips that showed the gunman walking the hallway with his rifle. A child peered around a corner and spotted him then ducked away, and then the gunfire began. The station aired some of the sounds of gunfire but not screams from the dying children.

KVUE senior reporter Tony Plohetski told viewers, “This is not a decision that we have taken lightly. We have carefully considered what we are doing here. We know that there will be people out there maybe who do not agree with our decision to air these clips. But, again, when you think of the families who have called for transparency, the highest levels of our state government have called for transparency, and we found ourselves in a position of once we obtained this video, that we similarly did not feel that it was within our interest to withhold it from the public.”

The station also published the videos on its YouTube channel and KVUE.com.

The Austin American-Statesman, which usually has a paywall for content, published the video on its website outside the paywall.

Manny Garcia, ethics and standards editor for the USA Today Network, of which the Statesman is part, explained to readers:

The Statesman is publishing two versions of the video, one that we edited to just over four minutes and highlights critical moments: the ease of gunman entering the school, how he shot his way into the classroom, the repeated sound of gunfire, and then the delay by police to stop the killer for 77 minutes as dozens of heavily armed officers stage in the school hallway before a group finally storm the classroom and kill the gunman.

We are also publishing the entire video for those who want to see what we obtained. In both videos we blurred the identity of a child who exits a bathroom as the shooter approaches the classroom. The child runs back to bathroom to hide and was later rescued. We also have removed the sound of children screaming as the gunman enters the classroom. We consider this too graphic.

We have also chosen to show the face of the gunman as he enters this school. Our news organization guidelines state that we should not glorify these individuals and give them the notoriety that they seek. We chose, in this instance, to show his face to chisel away at any conspiracy that we are hiding something.

The statement added:

Our goal is to continue to bring to light what happened at Robb Elementary, which the families and friends of the Uvalde victims have long been asking for.

Garcia continued:

This tragedy has been further tragic by changing stories, heroic-sounding narratives proven to be false and a delay or in most cases rejection of media requests for public information by law enforcement leaders, public officials and elected leaders. Many of the requests now rest in the hands of Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office, who has not yet decided what should be released.

But there are also heroes: elected leaders, public officials, law enforcement officers, survivors of the massacre who want the truth out. The truth always wins, maybe not on our clock, but the truth always prevails.

And that is the reason that we publish alongside KVUE.

The Statesman reported that state officials planned to release portions of the video to family and then the public Sunday.

State Rep. Dustin Burrows, a Republican from Lubbock and the chairman of the House committee investigating the shooting, said Tuesday that the committee plans to show the hallway video to members of the Uvalde community on Sunday, as well as discuss the panel’s preliminary report. He then plans to release both to the public. The video that the House committee will make available will not include footage of the gunman walking into the school and the view from the hallway of the gunman initially firing his way into the classrooms. The video the Statesman obtained includes that footage. Neither version shows children, teachers or the gunman being shot.

Garcia told readers, “We have to bear witness to history, and transparency and unrelenting reporting is a way to bring change.”

Al Tompkins

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