Newtown Tragedy: PBS Defies Basic Journalistic Standards to Push the Sandy Hook Official Narrative


This past week the Public Broadcasting Service presented its viewership with a flurry of reportage and commentary on the Newtown tragedy, taking special care to closely associate the incident with the issues of gun control, mental health, and school safety. Specific programs have included Washington Week, PBS NewsHour, NOVA, and FRONTLINE. This degree of coverage from an outlet with significant credibility among the educated professional class is especially unusual.

Yet even more bizarre is the dubious assumption by PBS’s programming directors that the event has taken place as described by their often untrustworthy and sensationalistic commercial peers at CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. Instead of providing a genuine news alternative by acting as a corrective to such slipshod reporting PBS has wholeheartedly run with the “official story” of the event—that Adam Lanza was the sole perpetrator. With this the publicly-funded network has moved beyond a much-needed interrogation of the incident to evaluating what social control measures should be introduced or the extent to which existing ones should be ratcheted up.

The FRONTLINE special, “Raising Adam Lanza,” which aired on Tuesday, February 19, is a case in point. Profiling an investigation into Adam and Nancy Lanza by veteran Hartford Courant reporters Alaine Griffin and Josh Kovner, the news magazine proceeds to “lead the witness-viewer” in the court of public opinion by driving home the narrative already well-established in the public mind by corporate media.

Not only are the Hartford Courant and PBS asking the wrong questions and far afield from what might help in better understanding the tragic event, they appear to be knowingly misinforming their readers and viewership because the investigation—like almost all of the corporate coverage—proceeds in the absence of proof that Lanza committed the crime. Indeed, Mr. Kovner acknowledged such in a brief email exchange.


On Feb 23, 2013, at 10:23 AM, “James Tracy” wrote:
—– Forwarded Message —–
From: James Tracy
To: Alaine Griffin, Josh Kovner
Sent: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 1:04 PM
Subject: “Raising Adam Lanza” Query on Prior Evidence


As you may know I have taken a special interest in researching the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting and am thus most interested in your work. I recently viewed the PBS Frontline special profiling your work aired on February 19.

I am curious to know if you have heretofore accessed and examined forensically viable postmortem, video, and/or photographic evidence of the Sandy Hook shooting itself (e.g. autopsies of the suspect and victims, and documentation of the crime scenes) that can confirm specifics of the incident and its genuine occurrence. It would appear to me that such information would be appropriate for journalists such as yourselves to interrogate prior to an in-depth biographical investigation of the suspect Adam Lanza.

The courtesy of a response would be most appreciated.

Thank you for your time


James Tracy, Ph.D.

Mr. Kovner responded with the following:

From: “Kovner, Josh”
To: James Tracy
Sent: Saturday, February 23, 2013 10:48 AM
Subject: Re: “Raising Adam Lanza” Query on Prior Evidence

The forensic evidence, including autopsy/toxicology reports and crime-scene photos, has not been available to  us.

The Public Broadcasting Act passed by the US Congress in 1967 mandates PBS and its parent corporation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, to carry out a public service where the commercial sector has failed. In the Act Congress declared that

it furthers the general welfare to encourage public telecommunications services which will be responsive to the interests of people both in particular localities and throughout the United States, which will constitute an expression of diversity and excellence, and which will constitute a source of alternative telecommunications services for all the citizens of the Nation

The Hartford Courant and PBS particularly should provide a reasonable explanation as to why they have chosen to place basic journalistic standards attending to evidence and truth in abeyance and instead serve as an outlet for furthering the Obama Administration’s open agenda of heightened gun control, psychiatric surveillance, and school safety protocols. Without such they offer virtually no worthwhile alternative in terms of news and perspective aside from providing taxpayer and foundation-subsidized publicity to an audience that considers itself too sophisticated to be fooled by cable news claptrap.

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About the author:

James F. Tracy was a tenured Associate Professor of Journalism and Media Studies at Florida Atlantic University from 2002 to 2016. He was fired by FAU ostensibly for violating the university's policies imposed on the free speech rights of faculty. Tracy has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the university, with trial set to begin November 27, 2017. Tracy received his PhD from University of Iowa. His work on media history, politics and culture has appeared in a wide variety of academic journals, edited volumes, and alternative news and opinion outlets. Additional information is available at,, and

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