Monday, January 27, 2020

Irresponsible reporting

     Ted Bundy, Timothy McVeigh, Jim Jones, Anders Breivik, and Dylan Roof were all stone-cold killers, and thanks to extensive and unrelenting media coverage they’ve all become infamous, their places secured in dark history. We remember their names and even their faces.
     But what do we remember of their victims? Sadly, nothing at all. Not their names. Not their faces. Not their accomplishments. Not their unrealized aspirations.

     Sixteen-year-old Brenda Spencer took up a .22 rifle one day in 1979 and began shooting at an elementary school across the street from her home, killing two adults and wounding eight kids and a policeman. She had told friends to watch the news because she was “going to do something big to get on TV.” She’s still featured in several sites on the Net 41 years later.

     Nineteen-year-old Nikolas Cruz declared that he wanted to become a “school shooter” before he realized his twisted dream and shot 17 dead and injured 17 more in a bloody rampage at the Parkland school, though he fell short of his desired death goal of 20. A video he proudly made is still up on the USA Today website, along with news stories about him on other sites. We see many other similar instances of notoriety all over the news these days, and in too many cases, that’s exactly what those killers were seeking. We hear about new shootings with gruesome frequency, each shooter competing for their special chapter in the book of infamy from our obliging media.

     Partly because my mother was an ethically and morally responsible newspaper reporter for many years, I’ve long abhorred how the increasingly blatant irresponsible and shallow media use their considerable power to slant the news in favor of this agenda or that and to whip up violence of all kinds, both by harping endlessly on society’s divisions, discontents, and hatreds, and by lavishly giving criminals the very publicity they so desperately seek in order to gain lasting notoriety for themselves.

     There is a movement to stop this senseless, sensational “reportage.” It’s called No Notoriety. It seeks to, “Recognize that the prospect of infamy serves as a motivating factor to [some] individuals to kill.” It urges media to at least limit the name and likeness of a killer and to instead elevate the names and likenesses of the victims, to help people remember those who have fallen and to send the message that their lives were and are important. A fine example is New Zealand’s treatment of the Chistchurch mosques shooting. They refused to give any publicity to the shooter at all and instead celebrated the lives of the fallen.

     I think this movement is long, long overdue and is to be applauded.

     For specifics, please see the website:

    Please urge the media to take note of this movement—and to begin taking moral responsibility for the effects of their reportage.


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