Former CNN anchor and reporter Brooke Baldwin has a lot to say in a column published Tuesday in The Atlantic.
Titled Don’t Let the Cameras Turn Away, Baldwin writes about coverage of school shootings. She recalls being taken off coverage of Parkland, Fla. for breaking news concerning President Trump and the FBI, or as she phrases it, “in favor of what producers thought was more splashy news.”
Baldwin adds: “My producer assured me that we’d return to coverage in Parkland, but that right then—I’ll never forget it—’we have to break away to go live to Washington.’ But. But. But. Fourteen students were dead. I stood there dumbfounded.”
Baldwin noted all of the mass shootings she covered during her long tenure at CNN: “An Amish schoolhouse in rural Pennsylvania. Then Virginia Tech. Tucson. Aurora. Newtown. Fort Hood. Isla Vista. Waco. Charleston. Chattanooga. Lafayette. Moneta. Roseburg. Colorado Springs. San Bernardino. Orlando. Dallas. Baton Rouge. Fort Lauderdale. Alexandria. San Francisco. New York City. Little Rock. Antioch. Las Vegas. Sutherland Springs. Parkland. San Bruno. Nashville. Annapolis. Pittsburgh. Thousand Oaks. Poway. Gilroy. El Paso. Dayton. Midland-Odessa. And those are just the ones that immediately come to mind.”
She said the news cycle and our propensity to move on from significant stories has left her with a “deep cynicism,” citing the horrific school shooting in Uvalde, Texas as the most recent example. Scores of TV news anchors and reporters descended on the Texas town last week, and have already left. She predicted news outlets will move on after this coming weekend, if not already.
Let me tell you what will happen: The news media will be in Texas through this weekend, and then news executives will start paring down the coverage next week. The conversation has already turned to politics, as some pundits urge a focus on mental health and others on guns. Some journalists will try to hold our elected representatives’ feet to the fire. A segment or two will go viral. Americans will share their outrage on social media. And then another story will break next week, and the news cycle will move on.
After a week or 10 days, the outraged public grows tired of hearing about the carnage, loss, and inaction. The audience starts to drop off. The ratings dip. And networks worry about their bottom line. And while the journalists in the field have compassion for the victims of these tragic stories, their bosses at the networks treat the news as ratings-generating revenue sources. No ratings? Less coverage. It’s as simple as that.
Now on the outside looking in, Baldwin offered some sage advice for the decision-makers, including assigning reporters specifically to mass shootings and also displaying the images of victims (in many cases, children) after they have been shot. “News executives should spend what it takes to stay a little longer in these communities. Respect the wishes of the victims’ families, but tell that story in every show so that the audience can’t look away,” Baldwin writes. “I know that keeping crews in the field is expensive, but 19 children and two teachers? There is no higher cost than that.”
Baldwin joined CNN in 2008 as a freelance correspondent before ascending to the anchor desk just three years later. She was the face of CNN on weekday afternoons for nearly a decade until exiting the network in April 2021.