Should Media Not Report Names Of Gunmen In Mass Shootings?


Many families of victims in mass killings and police officials are urging journalists and public officials to avoid using the gunmen's names and photos in public, says the New York Times. Their hope is that refusing to name the actors will mute the effects of their actions, and prevent other angry, troubled young men from being inspired by the infamy of those who opened fire at Columbine High School, Virginia Tech or Newtown, Ct.

Last Saturday, the sheriff investigating a shooting inside Arapahoe, Co., High School made the same decision. Few news outlets have excised the names of killers from their coverage. It is a difficult fact to omit as reporters try to unravel questions about the mental health and private anger of these gunmen, and whether they had given any warning signs. “There's a compelling public interest in naming the gunman and what his circumstances were and how he pulled off the shooting,” said Kelly McBride, a media ethicist at the Poynter Institute. “If you don't name the gunman and try and understand how he got his guns, what his motivations are and what might have prevented this, I don't think that we'll be any better off.” Social scientists and criminologists say the forces driving these shootings are a kaleidoscope of anger, revenge, insecurity, immaturity, mental illness, a desire for notoriety and myriad other factors, including easy access to weapons.

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