Mass shooters seek media coverage


Today, an article published by Vox caught my eye. The headline was The Trenton, New Jersey, mass shooting isn’t getting much national attention. After reading the article, I asked myself, do mass shootings even need to be getting attention more attention than they already are?

Mass shootings, although tragic and heartbreaking, are seen as gold (in terms of content) for news media outlets. It is their gateway to all subjects controversial— gun control, mental health, and so forth. This is an outlet’s chance to use a national event to lure readers and viewers in-a chance to inform the public.

Yes- it is the news media’s role to cover all things newsworthy, but journalists don’t always understand the repercussions that come with this task.

Readers seek detail and that’s what journalists want to provide because, if not, then they’ll lack an audience. But sometimes, that depth can be seen as invasive and counter-productive.

When I say invasive, I speak for those whose parents are forced to mourn their lost child, or whose brother must suffer the loss of a sister.

But when I speak of counter-productivity, it is that very detailed reporting that enhances the recurring mass shootings our country faces.

In a way, the extensive coverage of mass shootings brings fame and recognition to the perpetrator. Presenting these shooters’ names in headlines, publishing their photos and sharing information about their personal lives is almost commemorating them for their actions. These people don’t deserve to be talked about but the coverage creates popularity by exposing them as a household name.

For this type of  event, I believe news reports should keep the victims, their families and the perpetrators anonymous. It is important for the people of our country to know what is happening and where but anonymity could help others who want the same attention from following the same footsteps.

When you give that person (in this case the shooter) attention, you are feeding into their desperate need to be known and talked about.

An example I can think of is the uni-bomber (which I will not name) in the 1980s. After the FBI printed his manuscripts, which contained his thoughts and ideas, there were many who agreed with his views and created a fan base. With the Columbine shooting, many outcasts also praised the shooters and created a cult known as The Columbiners.

These people should not be recognized for the mere issue that attention leads to popularity, and popularity leads to a following. Unfortunately, the news media know the more they give, the more people will listen and read. Censorship of any kind is difficult for journalists especially when they are committed to reporting the full truth— but at what expense are they doing so?