Scanning the local news headlines this morning, I was pretty dismayed to see how a developing story about a youth shooting has taken the familiar turn towards subtly and inexplicably blaming violent video games.
The story, which initially broke Wednesday, told of a Germantown, Md., eight-year-old who brought a gun into his day care and accidentally shot a seven-year-old girl in the arm. The boy’s father was brought up on numerous gun charges today, which led to this throwaway line appearing in the second paragraph of an AP Story this morning.
The boy was influenced by a violent video game given to him by his father and was introduced to guns by his father, prosecutors say. [emphasis added]
While the article elaborates at length on the father’s alleged influence on the child (accusations which include “showing his son how to operate a .38-caliber handgun”) there is no further mention of the video game link. Despite this, DC-area commuter tabloid Express saw fit to include a subhead saying that “Prosecutors allege violent video game influenced eight-year-old.” (PDF link. Check page 9).
This is a shame, because countless busy Washington commuters will no doubt scan that headline and come away with the mistaken impression that the story focuses on a video game link that is barely mentioned. Then again, based on the headline, it seems like the Express editor may have been too busy to read the entire article as well, stopping to write the headline as soon as he saw “video game” in the second sentence.
Given the actual thrust of the story (that a deeply troubled father “was basically grooming the son toward having a propensity for guns,” according to prosecutors) I’d say that video game line doesn’t even belong in the story in the first place. When a serious accusation like that is leveled so high in a story, readers expect there to be some sort of explanation or elaboration a little further down. The author here either could not or would not provide that elaboration, and that should have set off some alarm bells for any copy editor.
So far, it looks like the story hasn’t gotten much national attention, and the actual coverage has yet to become quite as sensationalistic as some previous stories in this vein. We’ll see how long this lasts once the media machine gets wind that prosecutors are again using the “VG” word in another shooting shooting case.
I give it ’till Monday.
Update: 12:01 p.m. Jan. 27 — The Baltimore Sun also mentions the video game link in the subhead for the same AP story: “8-year-old who shot girl at day care said to be influenced by video game.” Thanks to GamePolitics for the link.