Ed Desk: Attention they don’t deserve
Living so close to the Navy Yard in the District of Columbia and having a father who works in D.C., the mass shooting that took place on Sept. 16 hit close to home.
Although I did not know anyone personally who was killed in these shootings, it is still an incredible tragedy, but sadly it is something Americans are getting used to.
After a mass shooting takes place, most people are left wondering why it happened. But what the media should start asking themselves is why do we keep giving these shooters credit for the terrible acts that they commit?
For most of the people who commit these horrible crimes, they are often after exactly what the media gives them: attention.
Look at the shooter in the Aurora, Co. shooting in 2012 inside a movie theater.
The shooter in that case dyed his hair, and referred to himself as “The Joker” to local authorities when he was arrested outside the theater shortly after the shooting that left 12 dead.
After he was charged, his face was plastered all over television screens and newspapers, and stories were written about his personality, why he would do something like this or anything in his past that would cause him to act out this violence.
Wouldn’t it have been just as effective to focus on the victims of this case, rather than the perpetrator, and wouldn’t it have been just as effective to call him “the gunman” or “the killer?”
In cases of mass shootings, the name should be used to identify the shooter, but only sparingly within the first day or so of the crime occurring.
Identifying the name at first will allow family members, significant others or doctors to come forward with valuable information that could assist investigators, but after that using the shooter’s name is just giving the shooters the attention they desire.
In the case of the Navy Yard shooting, when follow-up stories are written, isn’t it just as effective to identify him as a “former government contractor?” It’s a valuable piece of information and forces the public to question how contractors run background checks on their employees, but doesn’t give him publicity.
Mass shootings need to be covered, no doubt, but even if 70 percent of media outlets would follow some sort of name guidelines, it could potentially discourage killers from wanting to become “famous” and would at least protect the families of the victims from seeing the killer’s name printed and posted over and over again.
As Dave Cullen put it in his BuzzFeed piece along the same lines, “We can diminish their recognition over time, but awful names we will never unlearn. It’s too late to disrespect them. Unfortunately, there will be new killers. And they will quickly learn they leapt for the stage too late. The list of notorious killers is complete. You can add new crimes, but we are not adding new names.”