Should The News Media Play Down The Writings Of Mass Killers?


Citing a “conscious copycat effect” in the string of mass killings, from Columbine to Virginia Tech to Newtown, Ct., Ari Schulman, executive editor of the journal The New Atlantis, tells the New York Times that the news media “have been nearly perfect participants” in the “ritualistic response” that incentivizes these horrific episodes. It's past time, he believes, to rethink that and to change it, says Times public editor Margaret Sullivan. Schulman says news reports should pay less attention to writings such as the long statement by California student killer Elliot Rodger, “maybe no more than a passing mention that it exists.”

Sullivan says the idea of playing down a killer's “manifesto” is, “at the very least, worth consideration, on a case-by-case basis. We may have no choice but to name the killers, but we are not obligated to provide a platform for every one of their twisted views.” Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox expressed a similar view in a post cited last week in Crime and Justice News.

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