The photos and headlines about a mass shooting attract the public's attention. Some people feel drawn to the excitement. Others read and feel better knowing that law enforcement’s at the scene. Some readers are just curious; others gather information in an effort to protect themselves from a possible future attack.
Consumers of this kind of news coverage are often unaware that their Internet activity has consequences. They're opposed to the violence and want the shootings to stop. When they click on the names and pictures of the shooter, however, they're supporting the very event that’s offensive to them.
Avoid the Name.
Many shooters are fame-seekers and are motivated by the media coverage that they incite. Organizations like Don’tNameThem.org and NoNotoriety.com are trying to remove the media attention as a motivating factor. On their website, they are asking that journalists avoid glorifying the gunman.
The organizations released several guidelines. In their opinion, lessening the glorification in an article includes: significantly limiting the mention of the gunman’s name. Also, they’re asking writers to leave out pictures of the shooter.
In addition, the recommendation asks journalists to avoid delving into the perpetrator’s personal life. Instead of presenting details about the shooter, the movement encourages them to focus on the public’s point of view.
Anti-shooter stories by this measure focus on the people that were victimized and those that tried to limit the tragedies.
Ignore the Face.
Many writers adhered to the recommendations in the coverage of the “Highland Park” shooting in Chicago last week. The Daily Herald article (upper left corner of the picture) and the two Chicago Sun Times articles (in blue) also followed these guidelines.
The headline in each piece refrains from listing the shooter’s name. The headings do not include a picture of the gunman either. In addition to these features, the presentations show the event from the victim’s point of view. None of these articles tell the story from the shooter’s perspective.
Consider the Viewpoints
CNN’s publication also does a fairly good job of sticking to these recommendations. The discussion refrains from including pictures of the perpetrator. The body of the text focuses on the public’s experience. In this instance, the excitement in the piece relates to a police officer’s view, and not the gunman’s.
In contrast to these anti-shooter qualities, the CNN article references the gunman’s name on five occasions. Also, the writer includes details about the shooter’s location in the headline. The use of this detail might appeal to the gunman and act as a glorification of the violence.
The writer states: “Highland Park shooter’s rooftop position made it hard for police to find him”. In this instance, the gunman might view the information favorably, since it references his advantage during his attack.
The Chicago Sun’s “Highland Park Fourth of July parade” (top left above) and Fox News’ article in the bottom corner might have missed the memo. Both of these articles include photos of the gunman. The Chicago Sun article also lists the name of the perpetrator in the headline. The discussion of the family in the Fox News article may act as a dramatization of the violence or as testimony to the victims.
Of Victims and Heroes.
Journalists publish materials that glorify violence because the public reads them. If the readers turned away from pro-shooter articles, writers would present more anti-shooter coverage. Consumers can help prevent mass shootings by ignoring articles that show the gunman’s name and likeness.
The public can also make a point to read stories about the victims and heroes related to the incident. Media coverage that places shame on the violent acts might de-incentivize the perpetrators and prevent the incidents from occurring.