Media coverage of mass shootings needs to change

Kaili+Berdge+of+Scottsdale%2C+Ariz.+makes+sure+every+candle+stays+lit+Wednesday%2C+Oct.+4%2C+2017+at+a+memorial+for+the+victims+of+the+mass+shooting+near+the+crime+scene+off+Las+Vegas+Boulevard+in+Las+Vegas%2C+Nev.+%28Gina+Ferazzi%2FLos+Angeles+Times%2FTNS%29
Kaili Berdge of Scottsdale, Ariz. makes sure every candle stays lit Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017 at a memorial for the victims of the mass shooting near the crime scene off Las Vegas Boulevard in Las Vegas, Nev. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Kaili Berdge of Scottsdale, Ariz. makes sure every candle stays lit Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017 at a memorial for the victims of the mass shooting near the crime scene off Las Vegas Boulevard in Las Vegas, Nev. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Kaili Berdge of Scottsdale, Ariz. makes sure every candle stays lit Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017 at a memorial for the victims of the mass shooting near the crime scene off Las Vegas Boulevard in Las Vegas, Nev. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Chris Anthony, Editor In Chief

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The tragic loss of 58 lives in the Las Vegas mass shooting will leave a mark on this country, one that many hope will be a wake up call in order to produce legislation calling for “commonsense” gun laws, however, mainstream media must also do its part in covering these tragedies responsibly.

It seems as though it should be a no-brainer, murder and violence should not be glorified by the news media; although, considering how many sadistic murderers that can be named at the drop of a hat, the constant repetition of these names is giving these people instant fame.

There are exceptions of course. For instance, it is not only appropriate, but necessary to repeat the name and show the face of a violent criminal still at large in order to apprehend them. Also, if that person is of significance, like say, hypothetically, if a senator turned out to be a murderer, then that would be newsworthy, thus making the name of the person an imperative detail in its coverage by news media, which brings me to my next point.

If the perpetrator is nobody of significance, and is already detained or deceased, how does society benefit from knowing that person’s name? It does not. The only names worth mentioning 100 percent of the time are those of the victims who suffered at the hands of the trigger person.

Sometimes, media gets it right. During my first semester here at The Mesa Press, I covered the premier of the documentary, “77 Minutes,” a film about the San Ysidro McDonald’s massacre that claimed the lives of 21 people, not including the perpetrator. What set this film apart from others, was that the name and face of the shooter was never shown or mentioned, instead bringing the focus on to the victims. Charlie Minn, the director, said on the film’s website, “Most people become familiar with the killer through the media, when there is no use for this knowledge in society…If the killer knew going in that their name wouldn’t be mentioned, I believe there would be fewer murders of innocent people in our country.”

In September of 2017, a research article was published in American Behavioral Scientist, called “Don’t Name Them, Don’t Show Them, But Report Everything Else: A Pragmatic Proposal for Denying Mass Killers the Attention They Seek and Deterring Future Offenders.” In the peer-reviewed article, Adam Lankford and Eric Madfis gave examples and cited evidence that many of those who commit mass shootings do so in pursuit of fame. “…The 2007 Virginia Tech shooter sent his martyrdom video and manifesto to NBC News, and the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooter called News 13 for more attention in the midst of his own attack…” Later in the article, Lankford and Madfis propose a new approach in four guidelines, which should already sound familiar to you: “1. Do not name the perpetrator. 2. Do not use photos or likeness of the perpetrator. 3. Stop using the names, photos, or likeness of past perpetrators. 4. Report everything else about these crimes in as much detail as desired.” Well said.

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