PBS will air a weeklong dissection of December’s elementary-school mass shootings in Connecticut under the umbrella “After Newtown.”
“PBS is not where you go for breaking news,” PBS chief Paula Kerger told TV critics in announcing the project, which will debut Feb. 18. “Where we can add to the conversation is to step back . . . and say: ‘Okay, where are the big issues and where does this take us?’ ”
The week of “Newtown” programs will look at violence in the media, gun laws, mental illness, school security and other topics connected to the killing of 20 schoolchildren and several adults in Newtown, Conn.
The programming will span the PBS franchises “PBS NewHour,” “Frontline,” “Washington Week With Gwen Ifill” and “Nova.”
In moments of tragedy, “there’s lot of fascination with the event itself,” Kerger told critics.
“Frontline,” in collaboration with the Hartford Courant, will profile Adam Lanza and his relationship with his mother, who was the among those he killed in Newtown. “Raising Adam Lanza” will look at the young man who killed students and adults Dec. 14 before committing suicide — leaving his motives, and life, largely a mystery.
“Frontline” also will report on the battle over America’s gun laws and gun culture.
“Nova” will air “Mind of a Rampage Killer,” which will ask what makes a person open fire in a theater, church or classroom, and whether science can provide clues to prevention. Nova correspondent Miles O’Brien will look at new theories that suggest the most destructive rampage killers are driven not by the urge to kill, but by death wish.
Kerger’s announcement, on the penultimate day of Winter TV Press Tour 2013, punctuates two weeks of discussion with industry execs about TV’s responsibility in its depiction of violence.
“It certainly fits into the way we think about what’s in front of kids,” said Kerger, adding: “The kind of programming you’re talking about has not found its home on public television.”
Her announcement came the day before Vice President Biden is scheduled to make recommendations to President Obama, based on the findings of the task force Biden was appointed to head in the wake of the Newtown tragedy.
Here is PBS’s description of the programming:
GUNS IN AMERICA
Tuesday, February 19, 2013, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET
Repeats Thursday, February 21, 2013, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET
In April 1775, it took a Minuteman roughly 15 seconds to load, aim and fire his musket at the advancing British Redcoats in Lexington, Massachusetts. In December 2012, at a primary school in Newtown, Connecticut, it took Adam Lanza a mere 60 seconds to fire off dozens of rounds with an assault-style weapon.. Gun technology has evolved a great deal since the Colonial era. So too has America’s gun culture. With an estimated 300 million firearms in circulation, the nation is saturated with firearms, many argue, and the human toll they’ve taken is too high. More than 30 people die every day from a gun-related injury. GUNS IN AMERICA is an unprecedented exploration of America’s enduring relationship with firearms. From the first European settlements in the New World to frontier justice; from 19th-century immigrant riots to gangland violence in the Roaring Twenties; from the Civil War to civil rights, guns have been at center of our national narrative. Americans have relied on guns to sustain communities, challenge authority and keep the peace. Efforts to curtail their distribution and ownership have triggered epic political battles. On one side, the cry for gun control gets louder after each mass shooting. And on the other, Charleton Heston’s 2000 rallying cry, “From my cold, dead hands,” still resonates across the land. GUNS IN AMERICA traces the evolution of guns in America, their inextricable link to violence and the clash of cultures that reflect competing visions of our national identity.
FRONTLINE “Raising Adam Lanza”
Tuesday, February 19, 2013, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET
Repeats Thursday, February 21, 2013, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET
In the wake of the mass killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, FRONTLINE investigates a young man and the town he changed forever. Adam Lanza left behind a trail of death and destruction, but little else. He left no known friends, no diary. He destroyed his computer and any evidence it might have provided. His motives, and his life, remain largely a mystery. In collaboration with The Hartford Courant, FRONTLINE looks for answers to the central—and so far elusive—question: who was Adam Lanza? Also this hour: In the aftermath of the tragedy, President Obama called for a national conversation about guns in America. Nowhere is that conversation more intense than in Newtown, where FRONTLINE finds a town divided and explores how those closest to the tragedy are now wrestling with our nation’s gun culture and laws.
NOVA “Mind of a Rampage Killer”
Wednesday, February 20, 2013, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET
What makes a person walk into a theater or church or classroom full of students and open fire? What combination of circumstances compels a human being to commit the most inhuman of crimes? Can science in any way help us understand these horrific events and provide clues to prevention ? As the nation tries to comprehend the tragic events in Newtown, NOVA correspondent Miles O’Brien separates fact from fiction, investigating new theories that the most destructive rampage killers are driven most of all by the wish to die, not by the urge to kill. Could suicide — and the desire to go out in a media-fueled blaze of glory — be their main motivation? How much can science tell us about a brain at risk for violence? Most important, can we recognize dangerous minds in time to stop the next Newtown?
THE PATH TO VIOLENCE
Wednesday, February 20, 2013, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET
Ever since the wake-up call that was Columbine, schools and law enforcement have developed multiple strategies to prevent attacks. Remarkably, more than 120 school assaults have been thwarted in the past 10 years. Security hardware and physical barriers may play a deterrent role, but it’s been psychologists — working hand in hand with law enforcement officers — who have devised the most helpful tools to prevent violent attacks. THE PATH TO VIOLENCE details a powerfully effective Secret Service program — the Safe School Initiative — that’s helped schools detect problem behavior. However, despite progress, recent attacks reveal a gaping hole in the safety net. Shooters like Adam Lanza, Jared Loughner and James Holmes all executed their attacks after they’d left their schools. In such cases, parents may be the first and only line of defense — parents who are terrified of their own children and who receive inadequate help from the mental health and legal systems. Can the gains made by social psychologists and law enforcement be extended to encompass the parents and families of violent individuals? Is the country ready to have a national conversation about the balance between school safety and civil liberties that interventions — including gun control — require?
WASHINGTON WEEK WITH GWEN IFILL
Friday, February 22, 2013, 8:00-8:30 p.m. ET
Moderator and Managing Editor Gwen Ifill will feature a segment discussing how Washington lawmakers are addressing the issue of gun control.
NEED TO KNOW
Friday, February 22, 2013, 8:30-9:00 p.m. ET
NEED TO KNOW explores the ripple effects of a single fatal shooting incident. Twenty years ago, an 18-year-old freshman and his professor were shot dead at a small Massachusetts college. The killer was apprehended, convicted and sent to prison. But the events that day continue to reverberate all these years later for the victim’s family, the killer and his family, others wounded that day, school administrators accused of not doing enough to prevent the shooting and still others in the community. During this program PBS stations will also have the option to insert 90 seconds of local content.
Monday, February 18, 2013 - Friday, February 22, 2013, 6:00-7:00 p.m. ET
Each newscast will include a segment exploring issues surrounding the Newtown tragedy.
Monday, February 18: A report on how the community of Aurora, Colorado is reacting to the national debate stirred by Newtown and the recommendations for reducing violence proposed by the Biden task force.
Tuesday, February 19: Senior Correspondent Jeffrey Brown taps into a discussion about the connections—or lack of connections—between violent video games and violent behavior.
Wednesday, February 20: Science Correspondent Miles O’Brien explores what scientists know, and don’t know, about adolescent brain development and what risk factors may lead a young person to violent behavior.
Thursday, February 21: A report from Florida, the first state to record more than one million requests for permits to carry concealed weapons. PBS NewsHour explores the increase in requests for gun licenses in the wake of Newtown, and the arguments for and against concealed carry laws in the state where Trayvon Martin’s killing is still a fresh memory.
Friday, February 22: From Chicago, a look at gun violence as a public health issue. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently shared that many more children die of gunshot wounds every day in Chicago than are killed by mass murderers in a year. PBS NewsHour explores how the Administration’s proposals for gun violence might change that statistic.
In addition to this special week of programming, PBS NewsHour will provide ongoing analysis, insights and panel discussions on the policy and political debates coming out of the Newtown tragedy, the Biden proposals and the President’s State of the Union address on February 12.