By NAOMI FEINSTEIN
It has been one year since the worst mass shooting in United States history. On Valentine’s Day 2018, tragedy disrupted the happiness and love at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
According to authorities, a former MSD student brought his semi-automatic rifle into a freshman building where he shot and killed 17 students and faculty in less than 10 minutes.
During the immediate aftermath of the shooting, survivors, which included students David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez, Cameron Kasky and Jaclyn Corin, launched a campaign called the “March For Our Lives” to end gun violence around America. Additionally, they vowed to never forget the lives lost by making sure their names are always brought up in commemoration.
After the shooting, the news media goes through the usual script of covering a mass shooting: explaining what happened, the lives lost and background of the shooter. However, many of these young activists are calling for the media to stop glorifying mass shooters.
Most recently, USA Today published a story in honor of the one-year anniversary of the shooting. In doing so, the reporter, John Bacon, highlighted all the key figures at the center of the shooting to discuss where they are today, which included discussing the young student activists and the shooter along with an image of him in court.
In response to the article, David Hogg appeared on MSNBC where he said, “They’re [USA Today] one of the best news organizations at making shooters famous in the first place. They always plaster the shooter’s face everywhere. They always give them several hundred pages of coverage.”
Hogg advocating for news media outlets to change how they cover mass shootings is part of the broader campaign called “No Notoriety” that began as a result of the 2012 Aurora movie theater shooting. There have been studies done to show that many mass shootings are repetitions of each other as perpetrators see the news coverage of the shooting and want the notoriety of being a school shooter. These aspiring shooters who hope to achieve fame see that is a real possibility through the news media. Thus, this campaign is calling for the news media to stop naming and showing pictures of the shooter.
News media outlets face difficult decisions in covering mass shootings. Now, many, such as Anderson Cooper, are pledging not to name the shooter during coverage or release any images. However, the American news media have the responsibility to keep the public well informed about what is happening around the globe and nationally. Yet, they need to be responsible in reporting. Instead of focusing on who it was, the news media must focus on why or how it happened.
We should use the news media coverage surrounding mass shootings to better understand why this keeps on happening and find the solutions to prevent them from happening in the future rather than as a means to talk about the shooter. When the media glorifies and identifies mass shooters, the victims are hurt twice: once by the perpetrator and the media. Since it seems as though mass shootings are going to be a constant in the U.S. for years to come, news outlets need to do their jobs but must be mindful of the victims and their families because their wounds are consistently reopened due to reappearing images and identification of the shooter in the news.