Covering Columbine: 10 Years Later

By SteveK Comment


10 years ago today, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold entered their high school in a Denver suburb, looking to kill hundreds of their classmates. On the cablers and networks today, the Columbine story was revisited. The story is significant for television news, as Poynter’s Al Tompkins told the AP: “Cable news channels were just spreading their wings and live coverage of breaking stories was coming into its own.”

We asked some of the anchors and reporters who covered the shooting to reflect on the story, 10 years later:

williams_4-20.jpgNBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams: “It was a miserable story to cover — and as the details came in, as the day went on, it only got worse. I couldn’t help but view Columbine as a father of two. My children were 11 and 8 back then, and it turned into a defining event for them. It became the new, sordid and violent benchmark for what could happen to our children, and as parents we tried mightily to calm them, and preserve the notion of school as a safe place.”

abrams_4-20.jpgAbrams Research CEO Dan Abrams: “My initial memory was confusion. We were in Colorado covering another story when I received a frantic call from the NBC news desk directing me to head to Littleton immediately. I was only about twenty minutes away so I was one of the first reporters on the scene. It was eerie. No one knew exactly what had happened or why. Nor did they know where to go or not go. I was putting eyewitnesses on the phone to describe the horror. In many cases I was gathering information from friends who heard accounts from friends. The police were confused, the students afraid and I was a little of both. Even hours later we were all worried that there were still shooters at large. I remember jumping at the sound of a falling ladder in the distance. While I was doing a report for Nightly News, there was an explosion in the background. We feared the killers were still there. If I recall correctly, the police had been defusing a bomb.

As time passed, however, the story quickly turned to the victims and the shattered community. Everyone wanted to know why? How could this have happened here? Who is to blame? Now, ten years later I fear the answers are as unsatisfying as they were then.”

avila_4-20.jpgABC News senior law and justice correspondent Jim Avila: “Columbine was the worst of a rash of school shootings I covered as National Correspondent for NBC News. It followed Jonesboro and Paducah…and was the most frightening of all. At the time my own 3 children were all in school — 2 in high school and one in elementary. And as a father, those pictures of teenagers running through the schoolyard with their hands in the air were crushing.

At times like that, I bury myself in the work…and make sure I call home at night to vent. No time to think about it during the day. I was there for nearly a month…and the details about the 2 shooters revealed every day were very troubling. Their access to weapons, their plans kept on their computers, the questions about parental supervision…all struck home with me and a nation of parents.

Columbine defined ‘innocence lost.'”

Click continued to see a local news report from Columbine featuring a current Fox News Channel correspondent…

Phil Keating: