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Anniversary Post-Mortem

The media's coverage of the Columbine anniversary was the journalistic equivalent of slow-pitch softball.

But the most telling television moment occurred on Today, where Katie Couric conversed with Michael Shoels, stepfather of murdered student Isaiah Shoels, and Craig Scott, brother of Rachel Scott. Couric's interview with this pair had been the poignant highpoint of the TV coverage immediately following the shootings, with Shoels and Scott holding hands as they attempted to express their agony. But there was no recapturing this lightning: Scott, who was underdressed for the temperature, spent most of the interview shuddering, while Shoels went off on a rant about how he'd been forced to leave Colorado because of racism and prejudice. The emotions this time around weren't nearly as touching.

The show went on, of course, but did so modestly. A moment-of-silence ceremony led by Governor Bill Owens lured far short of a throng of onlookers (according to the on-screen clock on CNN, the silence began more than a minute after the 11:21 a.m. time scheduled), and the multitudes failed to arrive at Clement Park despite reports from Channel 7's Anne Trujillo and Mitch Jelniker that people were "streaming in." Afterward, press sorts studiously avoided mentioning the smallish size of the audience, fearing, perhaps, that this admission would make them seem out of touch. But the disappearance of Columbine stories in the days that followed was so sudden that it almost seemed like a manifestation of collective guilt. As if.

By voting with their feet, however, Denverites sent the media a powerful message. Many of the thousands who stayed away from Clement Park on April 20 were undoubtedly saddened by memories of a year ago -- but they saw no reason to put their emotions on parade for the entertainment of others.

Life doesn't have to be a TV show, you know?

Have comments, tips or complaints about the media? E-mail "The Message" at Michael.Roberts@westword.com.

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