A call for change: Media coverage of shootings

Emily Williams

I’m tired of turning on the television and seeing a new death count. I’m tired of hearing how deadly one shooting was in comparison to the other. I’m tired of hearing how the shooter was “normal.”

We, as Americans, should be tired of keeping this “scoreboard”, tired, of the same ol’ story about the shooter’s predictable background. It tends to be a sad, relatable story. The kill-counts broadcasted next to the shooter’s name and face, mimic the post-game lobby of a video game. But this isn’t a video game –it’s real life.

Every person has their struggles, but there is no excuse for the taking of life. While mental health needs more attention, this coverage of shooters desensitizes us to the severity.

As a result, some news outlets no longer show the names and faces of these offenders. The Daily Wire made this decision on Feb 19. in their article, “Why ‘The Daily Wire’ Will No Longer Publish Names Or Pictures Of Mass Shooters.”

The article cited a paper titled, “Mass Shootings and the Media Contagion Effect”  by Western New Mexico University professors Jennifer Johnston and Andrew Joy. Their studies found “media contagion” and the “desire for fame” can lead to a rise in mass shootings.

“Recent analyses of media coverage followed by copycat incidents indicate a media contagion effect,” Johnston and Joy found.

This leads them to call for the establishment of guidelines for the media to use about how and how much should be covered about a specific shooter.

This isn’t a call for the absence of coverage of shooters. The shooter and information about them should be available, but, in moderation. Interviews with family and friends stressing that the shooter was a “normal person” can have negative repercussions. It could lead to someone who is unstable to realize that they, too, are capable of mass casualties.

Editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire and political commentator Ben Shapiro tweeted about his view on the change.

“Studies suggest that mass shooters thrive on media attention. To deprive them of that oxygen, @realDailyWire will no longer publish the names or photographs of mass shooters,” Shapiro wrote.

It’s time to rethink the coverage of shootings. Outlets need to explore more efficient ways to cover the shooter’s profile. The media’s coverage has come too close to glorification for too long. It’s time to contain the contagion.

egw352@mail.umkc.edu

(Photo credit: A Plus)

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