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Why we’re not playing the Sandy Hook 911 calls

While many news outlets have chosen to air portions of the 911 recordings from the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, Ron and Don have chosen not to play them. (AP file)

Officials have released the 911 calls from last year’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School after news outlets went to court to get them made public. But KIRO Radio’s Ron and Don have decided not to air the recordings.

Don says:

When this time of year rolls around we think about Sandy Hook we think about those kids we think about what happened on December 16th last year. We were doing the Toys for Tots campaign down in Pierce County with Ed Troyer and that’s when that massacre of little kids, of little lives, of little souls happened.

This is a day that the families have dreaded. This is the day that the 911 tapes came out and I think a lot of news organizations around the country have asked themselves if they should play these tapes. A lot of people are asking if these tapes should be released in the first place.

You may have heard some of the tapes here at KIRO on CBS because CBS has decided nationally, and we have no control over that, that they’re going to play some of the tapes. I also think maybe you’ve heard some of that on some of our local newscasts, I don’t know if you’ve heard that or not. And we don’t have any control nor do we want to have control over what our newsroom does.

But we’ve made a decision on this show that we’re not going to play the 911 tapes – even though I still feel like it’s important that they release those 911 tapes. There’s a lot of places you can go on the Internet and find those.

Plus you have to be wondering what the families are going through right now because here comes the anniversary. If you felt like you had to release the 911 calls, did you have to do those around the anniversary. Couldn’t you have released them over the weekend where no one’s really watching the news or listening to the radio anyway? Or couldn’t you have released them on a Friday? That’s what all good politicians do when they’ve done something wrong and they have to apologize because usually by the time you hit the Monday morning news cycle, that story is gone and the media has moved on to something else.

But instead here we are in the middle of the week, here comes the anniversary, here we are during the holidays, you know this has to be hell for these families. And so now you’re going to release these calls.

Ron says:

I look at it as a radio host and as a human being. As a radio host, when we started our radio career we didn’t have access to these online and so it kind of was a service in the sense that when the tapes came out and it was a big story, you could move the story forward and you got more details and more information about the story and you kept people informed.

Well, we don’t live in that era anymore. You can get these things a lot of different ways and so as a human being on this particular story I have no desire to listen to these calls. I have seen a documentary on the shooter, who I’m not going to name because I think that’s one of the reasons why he became a shooter for notoriety purposes

It’s coming so long after the event that I don’t think there’s any details that we’re going to learn from these calls that we didn’t already know that’s going to move this story forward.

As far revealing any sort of motive, the report came out a week or so ago and said we don’t have a motive, we don’t really have these questions answered. They listened to all the 911 tapes, they combed through everything.

I think there are some viable reasons for releasing 911 calls including evidence if there’s something evidentiary there, that you’ve got a suspect you’re prosecuting or there’s a lawsuit pending, I think that’s a reason to do it. I think that if it’s moving the story forward in a tangible way, that can be valuable in 911 calls.

In Columbine we had police action reviewed through the 911 tapes and they made substantive changes to the way they were going to respond to this type of situation, not just in Colorado but that then went out to conferences nationwide and even worldwide.

In this particular case, combined with the fact it was little kids, I have no desire to hear these calls. That’s why I choose not to play them.

What do you think?

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