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As Conn. story unfolds, media struggle with facts

Lt. J. Paul Vance Connecticut State Police conducts news briefing Saturday Dec. 15 2012 Newtown Conn. The massacre 26 children

Lt. J. Paul Vance of the Connecticut State Police conducts a news briefing, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012 in Newtown, Conn. The massacre of 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary school elicited horror and soul-searching around the world even as it raised more basic questions about why the gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, would have been driven to such a crime and how he chose his victims. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

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Updated: January 17, 2013 6:49AM

NEW YORK — Pressed with the awful urgency of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, television, along with other media, fell prey to reporting “facts” that were often in conflict or wrong.

How many people were killed? Which Lanza brother was the shooter: Adam or Ryan? Was their mother, who was among the slain, a teacher at the school?

As facts were gathered by authorities, then shared with reporters (often on background), a seemingly higher-than-usual number of points failed to pan out:

◆ The number of dead was initially reported as anywhere from the high teens to nearly 30. The final count was established Friday afternoon: 20 children and six adults, as well as Lanza’s mother and the shooter himself.

◆ For hours on Friday, the shooter was identified as Ryan Lanza, with his age alternatively reported as 24 or 20. A person who had spoken with Ryan Lanza said that 20-year-old Adam Lanza, the shooter who had then killed himself, could have been carrying identification belonging to his 24-year-old sibling.

◆ Initial reports differed as to whether Lanza’s mother, Nancy, was shot at the school, where she was said to be a teacher, or at the home she shared with Adam Lanza. By Friday afternoon, it was determined that she had been shot at their home. By early Saturday, an official said investigators had been unable to establish Nancy Lanza having any connection with the school. Early on, the attack was said to have taken place in her own classroom and was interpreted by more than one on-air analyst as possibly a way for Adam Lanza to strike back at children with whom he felt rivalry for his mother’s affection.

◆ At first, authorities said Lanza had used two pistols (a Glock and a Sig Sauer) in the attack and left a .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle in the trunk of a vehicle. But by Saturday afternoon, the latest information was that all the victims had been shot with the rifle at close range.

◆ There were numerous versions of what Lanza was wearing, including camouflage attire and black paramilitary garb.


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