PBS shows to examine Newtown school shooting
Public television is putting its resources into a week-long examination of the Connecticut school shooting.
PBS announced Monday it will air a series of programs under the umbrella title “After Newtown.” The February series will “continue the public conversation” on the topics of gun laws, mental illness and school security, PBS said.
Programs including PBS NewsHour, Frontline and Washington Week with Gwen Ifill will be part of the initiative. The science series Nova will air a documentary on violence and the brain.
A “Frontline” report will examine the life of Adam Lanza, who shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Dec. 14 and killed 20 first-graders and six adults before committing suicide.
PBS’ “After Newtown” initiative airs Feb. 18 to 22 (check local listings for times).
At a meeting of the Television Critics Association, PBS chief Paula Kerger said public television has a different mission than other media outlets when such events occur.
“PBS is not where you go for breaking news. Where we can add to the conversation is to step back … and say, ‘OK, where are the big issues and where does this take us?'” Kerger said.
In moments of tragedy, “there’s lot of fascination with the event itself,” she said, while PBS asks about meaning and consequences and includes both the national and local impact.
“We can work with (public television) stations in every community in the country to organize discussions so it’s not just a news feed that goes out into the ether,” she said.
Given the uncertainty surrounding Lanza and his motives, Kerger was asked if she’s confident the “Frontline” special will help illuminate the gunman.
She said she expects the program, being done in collaboration with The Hartford Courant, will tell a compelling story.
As with other network executives who took part in Q&A sessions at the TV critics’ winter meeting, Kerger was asked about the media’s responsibility in the depiction of violence.
“It certainly fits into the way we think about what’s in front of kids” and the images they see on PBS children’s shows, she said. As for prime-time, “the kind of programming you’re talking about has not found its home on public television.”
During their sessions, broadcast and cable networks promoted new and returning shows including Fox’s “The Following,” with Kevin Bacon chasing a grisly killer, CBS’ “Criminal Minds” and Showtime’s serial killer drama “Dexter,” and network executives were asked about the media’s role in violence.
Only FX President John Landgraf told the critics’ group he was in favor of further study about any correlation between entertainment and real violence. Previous studies have been mixed.
On Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to make recommendations to President Barack Obama on ways to curb violence, the result of a task force Biden was asked by Obama to lead after the Newtown tragedy.