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Home » Reporter calls out lawmakers following Maine shootings

Reporter calls out lawmakers following Maine shootings

It’s the same thing all over again.

Another mass shooting followed by the same arguments about what’s to be done.

On Thursday, even as the suspect in shootings that killed at least 18 and injured dozens more at multiple locations in Maine was still at large, lines were drawn in the sand.

One side of the political spectrum wanted to talk about guns. The other side wanted to talk about mental health. As if this was an either-or explanation.

On Thursday afternoon, while appearing on Chris Jansing’s MSNBC show, NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent Ali Vitali said inside the Capitol, “It’s the same conversation we see in this building every single time we cover mass shootings. We watch each side retreat to their corners and nothing gets done.”

The side talking about mental health, almost exclusively, are the Republicans, most of whom are loath to talk about any kind of gun legislation.

Jansing said, OK fine, so then where is the legislation or funding to address mental health?

That’s when Vitali, in a calm but clearly frustrated voice, used her access inside the Capitol to deliver a harsh criticism of the right.

“They’re talking points for Republicans on this issue,” Vitali said. “It has become untenable. I really appreciate what the press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre says when she says this isn’t normal and it shouldn’t be. But the conversations around the halls of this building are so normalized, I guess we have to say, around this issue, there’s not some impetus on the Republican side for policymaking around this. Because otherwise, you’re right.”

She continued, “Look, maybe we’ll be proven wrong. Maybe we’ll see them move on some kind of mental health package in regards to what we’ve just seen happen in Maine. Maybe, but I’m doubtful. Maybe I’ve been jaded in this building for too long, but they’re looking at other things. They’re going down the list of figuring out appropriations and spending bills. There’s a government funding deadline looming. Of course, we all know what’s going on in Israel right now. There’s a conversation about aid. All of these things are being talked about in the halls of Congress.”

Then she closed with this pessimistic line about those halls: “I have not heard anyone who is jarred by this latest mass shooting because, unfortunately, it has become normalized.”

Normalized. That’s where we are.

For this item, I turn it over to Poynter audience engagement producer Annie Aguiar.

For the second time this year, people playing much-hyped video game releases find themselves working as in-game journalists.

In Insomniac Games’ new release “Marvel’s Spider-Man 2,” in between playing as web-slingers Peter Parker and Miles Morales, players find themselves in the shoes of their friendly neighborhood reporter Mary Jane “MJ” Watson. As in the previous game, MJ gets lengthy sequences in which her reporting gets her into some compromising situations with supervillains.

Between fighting crimes, Parker even pitches in as a freelance photographer, getting bylines in what’s basically lifestyle feature photography (he makes photos showing the “soul of New York”) for a publication called The New York Bulletin.

Spider-Man, like Superman, has long had journalism in its lore through Parker and Watson’s gigs at The Daily Bugle, though the link to the Fourth Estate has faded from the popular imagination of the web-slinger in recent years.

Journalism makes sense as a vehicle for a side quest in an open-world game: A harried yet endearing character beseeches a hero, who was already out in the big world, to collect some pieces of information or photographs on their behalf. It’s such a good fit, it isn’t even the first time it happened this year.

In Nintendo’s epic “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom,” which came out in May, the hero Link scours Hyrule on assignment as a freelancer for the Lucky Clover Gazette in his spare time not spent saving Princess Zelda. It’s a rousing portrayal of the rah-rah do-gooder nature that journalism often carries in more surface-level depictions. As Penn, a large anthropomorphic pelican and one of two staffers at the Gazette, tells Link: “The more mysteries there are, the brighter a reporter’s spirit burns!”

Spider-Man’s vision of working in the media is a little less rosy. As a reporter at the Daily Bugle, MJ constantly scrounges for a big story to please her bullheaded boss, J. Jonah Jameson, who pressures all of his reporters for front-page news upon his return to traditional media after a stint as an independent podcast host. The only way it could get more accurate is if, in between demanding pictures of Spider-Man, Jameson started screaming about pageview goals. Under metrics pressure and in a toxic work environment, MJ’s in a position that’s unfortunately relatable for a lot of local journalists.

Frankly, I think reporting can carry more weight than a glorified fetch-quest. Give us inventory management but with interview snippets! Give us choose-your-own-adventure interviews! Give me a Pokemon re-skin where you have to catch sources to cobble together a story (please don’t actually do this, game studios).

But, as with the Reporter Barbie in Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie,” it’s heartening to see positive, heroic representations of journalists in popular media, especially with trust in mass media at near an all-time low.

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at

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