Annoyed by the media


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After a week of non-stop coverage of the shootings in Newtown, Conn., it seems folks were a bit uneasy about the media gathering at 16th Street and Cannery Road near Northumberland for Thursday's incident involving Priestley Elementary School.

Our reporter on the scene said he heard some complaints about media presence in his first moments there.

Even a handful of media can elicit such a response, especially early on in a breaking news situation where nerves are frayed and information is sparse.

Frankly, our goal is simple: gather information and report it. Sometimes, that takes an aggressive or even rude approach of which even our own mothers wouldn't approve.

Such is the nature of the business, but we hope in the end, the spectacle that is a news event is forgotten amid the reporting of accurate and timely facts that keep the public informed - especially under circumstances where threats involve children.

NBC's issue

The occasional unpleasantries our news staff encounters pale in comparison to those encountered by reporters who work in some of the most dangerous regions of the world.

NBC News' chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel and members of his network production team were traveling with rebels when they were kidnapped after a firefight at a checkpoint in Syria recently. They were released unharmed five days later.

Engel said gunmen who jumped out of the bushes executed one of the rebels "on the spot," and later during their captivity they were subjected to mock executions while blindfolded and bound.

"They made us choose which one of us would be shot first and when we refused, there were mock shootings. They pretended to shoot Ghazi (Balkiz, an NBC producer) several times," Engel said.

The nation's top broadcast media were put in a perplexing position when NBC asked that they hold off on reporting on Engel's capture. But they all obliged.

The Associated Press learned of Engel's disappearance independently and was asked to keep the news quiet upon contacting NBC, an AP story reported. AP said it didn't have enough information to report to its standards anyway. CBS News also said it had honored NBC's request, but a spokeswoman declined to discuss it. CNN, in an editor's note affixed to a website story on Engel's escape, noted NBC's request. CNN said it complied to allow fact-finding and negotiations to free the captors before it became a worldwide story.

That all makes sense, but we are left to wonder if the same considerations would have been given to hostages who weren't members of the media?

(Heintzelman, editor of The News-Item, writes "The Week In News" for each Saturday edition.)

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