Another Call for Media Not to Name Mass Killers

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Notoriety may have been what a 64-year-old Nevada man was after when methodically plotting a slaughter of concergoers. He may have intended to outdo other mass shooters. He may have hoped his name would gain a sinister immortality, writes Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman. University of Alabama criminologist Adam Lankford has explained the repetition of such incidents as a product of hunger for status. “Some mass shooters succumb to terrible delusions of grandeur, and seek fame and glory through killing,” he wrote. The more their names are known, the more likely they are to inspire imitators pursuing similar recognition, Chapman contends.

An organization, No Notoriety, has called on news organizations to avoid coverage that needlessly publicizes the identity of these murderers. Among its recommendations for print newspapers: “Limit the perpetrator’s name to once per piece as a reference point, never in the headlines and no photo above the fold. Repetitiveness is unnecessary, gratuitous and adds nothing to the story.” The idea has found some traction. The Chicago-area Daily Herald has omitted the Las Vegas killer’s name from headlines, published only one photo of him and referred to him mostly as “the gunman.” Explained an editorial, “We have no interest in making him famous.” The Chicago Tribune’s three editorials on the massacre also have omitted his name. News organizations obviously are obligated to report the names of killers, which can help generate useful information about motives, backgrounds, accomplices and other crimes. In many items, such as this column, there is no need to mention it, says Chapman.

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