Should the Media Take Sides on Gun Violence?

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Revulsion over the weekend’s mass shootings and the nagging sense that it’s an inconclusive rerun has frustrated the news media and those who rely upon it, and triggered a new debate over how such tragedies should be covered, the Associated Press reports. “It’s time for journalists to take sides,” tweeted Columbia University journalism Prof. Bill Grueskin. New York Times editors discovered the extent to which nerves are frayed when they put together the newspaper’s Tuesday edition. The first edition’s lead headline, “TRUMP URGES UNITY VS. RACISM,” provoked a social media backlash. Some tweeters said they canceled subscriptions. The newspaper called the headline flawed and changed it to, “ASSAILING HATE BUT NOT GUNS” in later editions and online.

The Associated Press got online criticism for using the phrase “mass shootings” to refer to the carnage, with some readers suggesting “murder” was more appropriate. The news service’s rules forbid using the word “murder” unless an assailant was convicted of a crime. Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather suggests journalists refrain from quoting President Donald Trump’s speeches and tweets without better context. Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin said every story on the issue should mention that Trump never condemned white nationalism until Monday’s speech, and consistently abetted it. Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke went further, urging reporters to “connect the dots” and say Trump is inciting racism and violence. Cable news advocacy has damaged the reputation of journalism in general, said Will Norton, dean of the School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi. Many people already expect news served up with a point of view. So if journalists more actively take sides, Norton said it will make things even worse with people who already believe the media is biased.

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