Media Coverage, Then and Now. Kent State Revisited

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Media Coverage, Then and Now. Kent State Revisited

Postby lazyuniondriver » Tue Dec 18, 2012 8:43 am

The first school shooting I vividly recall was in 1970 at Kent State (Ohio) University. It was a pretty big deal back then grabbing global attention. I'm sure anyone my age or older has heard about it. I have followed this event my whole life.

Monday May 4, 1970 between 3 and 3:30 pm, I was just 7 years old and standing in line just inside the front doors of my elementary school waiting to be dismissed when the door to the teachers' lounge violently burst open.

Two female teachers ran out into the hallway crying and sobbing. I had never witnessed behavior like this from an adult, much less two teachers. I was frozen motionless. They stopped near me and began a tearful explanation between sobs to the teachers gathered with their classes near the doors about what had happened only hours earlier in the day, the shooting of 4 students at KSU by Ohio National Guardsmen.

I was too young and afraid to ask if someone related to these teachers had been killed or injured. When I arrived home, my mother suggested the teachers were simply KSU alumni and suggested I not ask questions as they would tell me if they wanted me to know. Both teachers had regained normal composure the next day, mom may have been right.

KSU probably pumped out a quarter of my school's faculty members K-12 being both close in proximity and an affordable state university.

Some things become etched in your mind forever. This event in the hallway by the coat rack that hung the yellow safety patrol raincoats was one of them.

We all heard what was reported by the media. Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on a group of unarmed college kids for simply protesting the Viet Nam war. The students were unarmed so the Guardsmen had no reason to shoot. That is pretty much how I perceived the incident along with the majority of America for 25 years.

Fast forward to 1995. I'm in attendance at the KSU annual Fire Education Conference, a continuing education event for firefighters in Ohio and surrounding states. I happen to strike up a conversation with a firefighter/ medic who was actually a KSU college student in 1970... A protester too... He was here... I made it a point to eat lunch with this guy and ask him what it was like during the riots and shooting. He filled me in on more of the story that never made the headlines.

Seems the protesters, some of them not even enrolled students, were armed. They had sandwich bags filled with feces, urine, and stomach contents and had been bombing the troops all morning with them. From the ground and from the second floor of a dorm building, they threw them as fast as they could fill them, a small detail not widely reported by the media.

Knowing this, I had a better understanding what provoked the Guardsmen to open fire. Still no reason for deadly force, but I could see how this may have escalated tension.

This gentleman also took me back to where the crowd was fired upon and showed me a hole in a metal sculpture made of boiler plate I could stick the tip of my little finger through. The troops weren't messing around with rubber bullets. They had armor piercing ammo chambered and on command, let it fly. In 1970, my tour guide ducked for cover, evaded and escaped.

Fast forward to 2012, 42 years after the shootings, an audio recording of the event surfaces and is certified as authentic calling attention to 4 gunshots from a .38 revolver nobody recalls hearing or the media reporting. The .38 was allegedly fired by a KSU student/part time FBI/ part time police informant who was photographing the event while carrying a gun for his protection.

He had become widely known as a campus snitch and had allegedly been threatened previously, prompting his request and subsequent approval to carry a concealed firearm for his protection.

These four recorded shots were preceded by the open fire command given to the Guardsmen in preservation of their own lives. It is still undetermined who the photographer shot at or if they were warning shots in the air.

The gunfire was perceived by the commanding officer to be directed towards the Guardsmen so the command was given. The photographer denies pulling the trigger but 4 spent casings were documented as being contained in the cylinder of the surrendered .38.

My tour guide told me after the initial gunfire, "you could hear a mouse fart across campus" because everyone was stunned silent in disbelief that the Guardsmen actually were shooting at the raucous crowd. The screaming and chaos began once casualties were realized.

This audio tape is still in the midst of legal battle today to get the case re-opened and history rewritten by overturning the governments final conclusion of the shootings.

Controversy remains over who gave authorization to arm the student photographer since in 1970 no legislation existed allowing civilian concealed carry in Ohio, only law enforcement was permitted to carry a concealed handgun.

We will have to live with how history may be changed by technology not available 40 years ago and how clearly evident the media can report selected items from epic events even as they do today.

In the case of the Kent State shootings, had the media reported a little more, perhaps our Guardsmen and the military in general wouldn't have been considered scum of the earth for over 40 years by people that weren't present to witness the event for themselves, drawing their own conclusions based on what was reported.

Is all the detailed information broadcast today necessary? In the case of the KSU incident, the event would have presented a much different perspective had the media done a better job.

Is today's media approach of reporting every conceivable detail for days on end beneficial or is it only to sell advertisement, feeding the copy cats with ideas at the same time?


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Re: Media Coverage, Then and Now. Kent State Revisited

Postby Don McCombs » Tue Dec 18, 2012 9:05 am

Your last sentence speaks volumes, and is indeed part of the cause for the increase in violence in our country.
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Re: Media Coverage, Then and Now. Kent State Revisited

Postby Jim Becker » Tue Dec 18, 2012 10:14 am

Sometimes it is easy to blame the media and assume they have sinister motives of their own. Usually bad reporting is just bad reporting. Which of the 8 blind men do you interview for a report on the elephant? Reread what the Plain dealer said and your paraphrasing of the same. Not the same. I have seen discussion of Terry Norman's 4 shots in the past. In the absence of any way to sequence them into the rest of the events, I don't think they have gotten a lot of press. The wiki page on Norman talks about it at length.

I think it is worthy of note that the Guardsmen were really just kids themselves, like the protesters. They were just acting on a different authority.

Plain Dealer article wrote:The re-analysis, conducted by two forensic audio experts at The Plain Dealer's request, revealed what the experts said was an order for the Guard to fire, preceded by what one of the analysts said were four .38-caliber pistol shots.


lazyuniondriver wrote:These four recorded shots were preceded by the open fire command given to the Guardsmen in preservation of their own lives. It is still undetermined who the photographer shot at or if they were warning shots in the air.
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Re: Media Coverage, Then and Now. Kent State Revisited

Postby lazyuniondriver » Tue Dec 18, 2012 1:20 pm

Jim Becker wrote:Reread what the Plain dealer said and your paraphrasing of the same. Not the same.

Apparently a moment when the speed of the mind exceeded the speed of the fingers, or vice versa, although indicating original work, not something plagiarized, the paragraph was indeed written wrong.

A mixing of the words was not intentional nor meant to mislead, an honest mistake for which I take blame.

Good catch. Thank you.
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