Student Voice: Covering Uvalde Reflection – Kiera Easley

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“I remember as if it had happened minutes ago,” says Tony Plohetski of the Austin American-Statesman regarding the Robb Elementary School Shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Plohetski’s recounting of the tragedy was crystal clear.

In his 24th year of reporting, Plohetski had garnered numerous sources in law enforcement and public office. With these connections, he was able to gain insider information regarding the facts of the event. The news organization he was working for became the first to raise the death toll from two to fourteen.

When starting their story coverage, they had no clue that it was “two-pronged.” There was the apparent, monumental tragedy, but hidden underneath, there was a secondary story regarding the lack of law enforcement response.

The lack of law enforcement response indicated a multitude of systemic failures. While children were getting murdered, police forces waited idly, attempting to figure out the best way to apprehend the shooter, which can be clearly seen in the video obtained by Plohetski.

One of his law enforcement sources invited Plohetski to watch a video taken from one of the security cameras in Robb Elementary. What he saw was incredibly disturbing. There was footage of law enforcement in the school waiting around and doing absolutely nothing.

“In no mass shooting,” said Plohetski, “never have we had this kind of detailed information that had been captured in this way.”

The general consensus was that the public was entitled to the whole truth. There was a need to distribute information. At that time, the media decided to post the video online.

Directly after the shooting, State and Federal officials touted to the world that law enforcement had acted heroically and saved many lives.

However, the new video evidence was contradictory to that statement. It was clear that there were law enforcement individuals donned in highly protective gear and armed with all types of ballistic equipment just simply waiting in the hallway. All while, there was immense tragedy occurring just down the hallway. These responders took over an hour to take any sort of action.

This is a classic example of holding government agencies and public officials accountable for a responsibility they didn’t fulfill.

“This was, from start to finish, a failure of law enforcement,” said Plohetski regarding the initial response.

The mental toll that the release of the video had on the parents and those close to the situation was absolutely heartbreaking. There was a strong, immediate reaction.

Additionally, events like these affect the journalists covering the event. The amount of shock and tragedy that occurs is almost unfathomable and indescribable. Plohetski says that it is challenging covering a mass shooting and seeing the desperateness of those closely connected to the victims. To see how nobody is immune to that type of violence.

It is a journalist’s duty to cover these tragedies honorably and to deliver factual information to the public.