Week of special PBS programming to focus on Newtown tragedy

Updated Feb. 18, 2013, 11:24am CT

At the Television Critics Association (TCA) Winter Press Tour today, PBS announced that in response to the tragic shootings in Newtown, Conn., last month, it will be airing a week of special programming under the banner “After Newtown” that will “continue the public conversation on gun laws, mental illness and school security.” The “After Newtown” programming will air on PBS stations Feb. 18-22 (check local listings) and will range from original documentaries to installments of established PBS programs.

In explaining this PBS coverage, network president and CEO Paula Kerger said, “PBS is not the place you go for breaking news. We don’t try to cover breaking news. We feel that, even with the NewsHour, what we’re trying to do is to really do a summary and analysis of the day. … Where we can add to the conversation is to try to step back … and say, ‘Okay. What are the big issues, and where does this take us?’

“It is, I think, in moments of tragedy that there is a lot of fascination about the actual event itself. … But I think from our perspective, what does this mean, and what should we be thinking about as a country as we make difficult decisions around issues like violence in the media or gun control or school security? So in the week of Feb. 18, we try to break it out into those various pieces and to look at the science behind mental illness and what do we know and how can that help inform some of the decisions we make. We try to understand the issues around gun control and the passionate feelings, both pro and con.

“And then to look at some of the work that actually is underway in schools around profiling kids that have issues and how, with the right kind of intervention, these situations are actually avoided everyday. These are stories we don’t know because it’s not the sensationalist moment of a tragedy, but what is happening on a day-to-day basis.

“So I think these are all things that we feel that we can contribute to the conversation. We can get the right experts around the issues to help frame it out. And then in the case of a project like this, we can also work with our stations, who are in every community in this country, to try to organize community discussions so that it’s not just a news feed that just goes out into the ether and is gone, but it actually becomes the information that communities can use as part of the discussions as they wrestle with these issues.”

The lineup for the “After Newtown” programming on PBS, airing Feb. 18-22 (check local listings), includes:

Guns in America — Feb. 19 at 9pm ET; repeats Feb. 21 at 10pm ET. Gun technology has obviously evolved a lot since the Colonial era, and so, too, has America’s gun culture. This program explores our nation’s enduring relationship with firearms — 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” — Feb. 19 at 10pm ET; repeats; Feb. 21 at 9pm 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, this special looks for answers to the central, and elusive, question of just who Adam Lanza was. Also in this hour of Frontline: a look at the intense conversation about guns in Newtown, where those closest to the tragedy are now wrestling with our nation’s gun culture and laws.

Watch Raising Adam Lanza Preview on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

NOVA: “Mind of a Rampage Killer” — Feb. 20 at 9pm ET. What makes a person walk into a theater or church or classroom full of students and open fire? Can science in any way help us understand these horrific events and help provide clues to prevention? Correspondent Miles O’Brien investigates new theories that the most destructive rampage killers are driven most of all by the wish to die, not 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, and can we recognize dangerous minds in time to stop the next Newtown?

Watch Mind of a Rampage Killer Preview on PBS. See more from NOVA.

The Path to Violence — Feb. 20 at 10pm ET. This program details an effective Secret Service program — the Safe School Initiative — that has 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 were not enrolled in schools when they committed their crimes. 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.

Washington Week With Gwen Ifill — Feb. 22 at 8pm ET. Ifill will feature a segment on how Washington lawmakers are addressing the issue of gun control.

Need to Know — Feb. 22 at 8:30pm ET. An exploration of the ripple effects of a single fatal shooting incident that took place 20 years ago.

PBS NewsHour — Feb. 18-22 at 6pm ET. Each newscast this week will include a segment dedicated to exploring the issues surrounding the Newtown tragedy:

Feb. 18: A report on how the community of Aurora, Colo., scene of last summer’s shooting spree in a movie theater, is reacting to the national debate stirred by Newtown and the recommendations for reducing violence proposed by the Biden task force.

Feb. 19: Jeffrey Brown taps into a discussion about the connections — or lack thereof — between violent video games and violent behavior.

Feb. 20: 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.

Feb. 21: A report from Florida, the first state to record more than one million requests for permits to carry concealed weapons.

Feb. 22: From Chicago, a look at gun violence as a public health issue.