The Media Needs To Stop Making Mass Shooters Famous
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The Media Needs To Stop Making Mass Shooters Famous

Many news outlets focus on the perpetrator when reporting about mass shootings. By plastering the shooter's name and face all over the news, we're actually giving them what they want: fame.

The Media Needs To Stop Making Mass Shooters Famous

I think everyone agrees that mass shooters, terrorists and others who inflict mass casualties are awful, evil individuals who deserve to be punished to the full extent for the reprehensible acts they commit. In most cases, they are - most, if they survive getting apprehended by law enforcement, are handed maximum life sentences in prison with no opportunities for parole or case appeals.

Most shooters aren't concerned with their punishment, though. Most are after something else...something that the media and we as a society give to them: fame and notoriety.

When a tragedy like a mass shooting occurs, it's usually shown on the news the same way every single time: if the perpetrator is still alive after committing their atrocities, there's footage of them being taken into custody televised all over the news. As the shooter's identity becomes known, their name and face permeate headlines, articles and other media coverage. In the coming days and weeks after the tragedy, the media delves into the shooter's personal life, such as their past in school, with family/friends or even with ex-significant others.

This isn't inherently bad, though. The media has a social responsibility to report the name of the shooter and provide the public with some answers so that we can grieve and receive closure. And sometimes, reporting details about their lives and personal history can provide important information about societal issues that need to be addressed, like mental health care, inadequate emergency services or social work systems. But most of the time, this isn't the intention of the hours of news coverage and hundreds of articles published about the shooter.

Most of the time, the media repeatedly names the killer(s), shows their face and dives deep into their personal history in order to speculate about who or what caused them to commit such an awful, senseless crime - to provide some sort of a celebrity figure for the public to obsess over for a while and spark heated controversy over gun laws, political ideologies, racism, you name it.

That sort of fame is exactly what a mass shooter wants from his crime - I mean, can we as a society blame them for observing and vying for that effect? It happens every single time a tragedy of mass violence occurs. The media and society not only publicize shooters with their extensive coverage, but they also successfully make them famous and, in some cases, a cult hero. Take the 1999 Columbine Shooting as an example: the two shooters (who, for obvious reasons, I won't name) have amassed a fanbase of people known as the "Columbiners" who not only admire them as people, but for their murders as well. The same has happened to the killer behind the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018.

So not only does this intense focus on the shooter help them to achieve the fame they wanted, but it can also inspire people to commit similar atrocities to "one-up" the previous shooter's crime and rise to the same celebrity status. A recent study confirmed this "copycat" effect as a real threat, and an ABC News Investigation even found in 2014 that in the 14 years after the Columbine Shooting, at least 17 shooters (as well as 36 other students who were threatening similar action but were caught ahead of time) specifically cited the Columbine Shooting and named the shooters as partial motivation for their attacks. So it's clear and proven that treating mass shooters like celebrities can have serious consequences.

So my plea to media organizations and those who consume from them is this: please stop using shooters' names in headlines after they are initially caught and apprehended by law enforcement. Stop plastering their faces in your news broadcast and articles. Report only the necessary information from their personal history, as long as there is a beneficial discussion to be had or valuable news content to be gotten from it. Don't share any articles or clips that show the crime itself, that show social media posts from the killer, or that contain unnecessary, shock-value information about their personal lives.

I'm not saying people should be denied information about mass shootings or other acts of violence - it's basic human nature to want to know more information and get answers from such a situation (I want answers, too), and it's the media's responsibility to report information to the public. This article from Vox puts it best: "The media do not have to choose between reporting the facts and reporting responsibly. Instead, the ideal coverage would emphasize the how of the attack (the methods through which the perpetrator was able to carry it out) and the why (motivation, mindset). This can be done without talking about the who. And all of this can be accomplished while referring to 'the perpetrator.'"

Mass shootings and violent crimes are naturally sensational and are bound to receive public interest and media coverage. But the media, as well as the public, can benefit society by focusing less on the perpetrators and by not using their names or faces after they are caught. The pieces of scum who commit mass shootings deserve to be erased by society and remembered as horrible, evil people - not as celebrities.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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