Aurora Theater Shooting

Sikh temple shooting getting less coverage than Aurora theater tragedy: Why?

On Sunday, a gunman opened fire on attendees at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, killing six people before dying at the hands of police. Yet the amount of coverage this horrific event has received thus far falls short of that devoted to the July 20 Aurora theater shooting nationally as well as locally. Is that because the victims looked less all-American than did those who perished at the Century 16? That's among the theories you can expect to hear in the coming days.

On the cover of today's Denver Post, the temple shooting is relegated to a tease on a left-side rail:

Moreover, the paper's home page places the story below a report about the Mars rover and the successful qualification of local Olympian Jenny Simpson: Such placement is actually quite typical of what we've seen this morning on a national scale. The Today show's web page has the shooting up top, in an even more prominent position than its interview with another home-state Olympian, Missy Franklin.... ...but Google News put Mars first when we checked.... ...and the New York Times' placement nearly requires cursor movement to find.... Since these decisions were made independently, rather than by some all-powerful press cabal, we can only speculate about motivations.

Perhaps editors and producers felt that after two weeks-plus of Aurora theater shooting coverage, news consumers were already overwhelmed by reports about mass shootings. Maybe the fact that the body count is (fortunately) lower and the killer, identified as former Army soldier Wade Michael Page, is already dead makes the incident moderately less gripping.

But you can bet some observers will also surmise that the setting of the shooting -- a worship space used by followers of a religion that may seem foreign to many American viewers -- makes the story less "relatable," in industry parlance. And while no one would dare admit to similar thinking about victims like Amardeep Kaleka, son of the temple's president, such charges will undoubtedly be forthcoming from some quarters.

Whatever the case, we'd urge national news agencies to give plenty of attention to the Wisconsin tragedy. No telling at this point whether it was based on racism and bigotry, as opposed to the apparent madness that likely fueled what happened in Aurora. But if that's the case, or even if it's not, this is an important story to tell whether or not the public is exhausted by such grim subject matter -- and regardless of the multiple syllables in the victims' names.

More from our Aurora Theater Shooting archive: "James Holmes Dies: Jokey Twitter account has 39,000 followers and falling."

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts