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The Weird Story of Columbine Media Coverage

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That's the working title of my speech tonight at the Denver Press Club, 6 pm.

The talk, as I now have it written, begins:

The Columbine High School shootings began at 11:20 in the morning on April 20, 1999. It was a Tuesday.

I soon got a call from my editor at the Boston Globe. He had heard the news on CNN, but the report was early and vague: Maybe a student had been shot in the leg, the editor said. He wasn't even sure he wanted me to go to the scene, but told me to standby. I checked the local television coverage. It was wall to wall, as they say. I called the editor back and said a major school shooting had come to Denver. I headed out to Columbine, which neither I nor most of the world, had ever heard of.

I will also be discussing Cassie Bernall:

I was appalled at how many stories on the ten-year anniversary were wrong and misleading. Now, the media is not one giant entity. It is a lot of different reporters and news organizations. But the truth remains. Most reporters got it wrong. A few got it right.

The story of Cassie Bernall is still instructive. Cassie was a seventeen-year-old junior at Columbine with blond hair who traded her fascination with witchcraft for religion. She was killed in the library at Columbine. One of the biggest myths to emerge from the shootings was whether Cassie was shot after saying she believed in God. She was not.

This is the full press release for the talk:

Helen Verba Lecture Series to Feature Jeff Kass May 6

Columbine: A True Crime Story gives an in-depth look at the shooting and its aftermath

Nearly 11 years after Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 classmates and a teacher, Columbine remains the world's most iconic school shooting. Columbine: A True Crime Story, a victim, the killers and the nation's search for answers is the first book of investigative journalism to tell the complete story of that day, the far-reaching consequences, and the common denominators among school shooters across the country.

Author Jeff Kass will discuss his book, at 6 p.m. May 6 as part of the Helen Verba Lecture Series, at the Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm Place.

Kass was one of the first reporters on scene and wrote the Page One, next day story for the Boston Globe. For 10 years he covered Columbine as a staff writer for the Rocky Mountain News. He has broken national stories on the shootings such as leaked crime scene photos, and the sealed diversion files of the killers. He has also reported the story extensively for the Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, Newsday, and U.S. News & World Report.

This event is free and open to the public, presented by the Colorado Society of Professional Journalists, The Denver Post and the Denver Press Club.