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Lost: Media Ethics in Newtown, CT

By       Message A.J. Smith     Permalink
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opednews.com Headlined to H3 12/20/12

Sniffing out the news?
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br />Sniffing out the news? by Marsmet541

Sniffing out the news? by Marsmet541

The news media dropped a double stinker this time, at the scene of a horrendous massacre in Newtown, CT. Major news outlets as well as countless bloggers (1), named the wrong guy the killer and (2), set the autism support movement back a few decades by fostering false stereotypes. Whatever happened to ethics in journalism?


Ryan Lanza was initially identified incorrectly as the man who killed his father in Hoboken, NJ, then travelled to Newtown, CT and mowed down his mother and her entire kindergarten class, as well as six other adults. He'll likely be a permanent presence on internet search engines, but at least he can change his name to ease the stigma somewhat.

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Autistic people don't have that opportunity.


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Talking heads bloviated about the subject, their limited knowledge not preventing them from   forging ahead anyway, describing Adam Lanza, when they finally got the name right, as a lonerand a goth and as odd and aloof. Then they claimed he lacked empathy, which somehow morphed into the autism spectrum and Asperger's Syndrome, which they described as a mental illness.


The evolving diagnosis of Adam's affliction appeared to be stand-alone theory stated as fact, unsupported by a doctor familiar with Adam.

Author Phyllis Gilman wrote in The New York Times of December 17, 2012, "Don't Blame Autism for Newtown." The mother of an autistic child, she railed against the uninformed stereotypes advanced by the news media.


Contrary to the misreporting, she writes, children with autism, which is not a mental illness, by the way, do not lack empathy.

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"Children with autism may have trouble understanding the motivations and non-verbal cues of others, be socially naïve and have difficulty expressing their emotions in words, but they are typically more truthful and less manipulative than neurotypical children and are often people of great integrity. They can also have a strong desire to connect with others and they can be intensely empathetic   -- they just attempt those connections and express that empathy in unconventional ways."


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OpEd News author bio A.J. Smith is a freelance writer, newsletter editor, and advocate for adults with autism. She is the author of "Joe Paterno The Musical: A Satire" and, under the pseudonym M.L. Bartlett, "Ask the Ethicalist."

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Lost: Media Ethics in Newtown, CT