October 4, 2015

When should you not report a name?

We're back in that cycle of a post-mass-shooting where some struggle or denounce, faux heroically, naming the shooter. The logic is that the shooter wanted attention and, by getting it, will spur on other potential shooters who want attention. The Wikipedia article, Umpqua Community College shooting, gets over with it in the second sentence by naming Christopher Harper-Mercer. Facts are facts, whether you choose to suppress them or not.

The Reddit post, This just happened on CNN..., is a prime example of the do-not-name camp. It includes a video from CNN with a clip of the local sheriff refusing to name the shooter, followed by the reporter naming him. Reddit's opinion as represented by the multi-thousand up-voted comments, several of which were given gold, is that this is an example of media hypocrisy (how?), irresponsibility, arrogance (again, how?), and blood lust (what?). Reddit rarely shocks me with large subreddit, highly up-voted posts going completely opposite to my opinion. However, others who I respect, notably Charlie Brooker back in 2009, also disagree with me.

On The Media, regarding the 2012 Aurora shooting, discussed the issue in the segment Don't Say His Name. Interviewing the father of a victim who is part of a group trying to get media outlets to hide shooters' names, Bob Garfield cites the five Ws as a basic tenant of reporting. The exceptions to reporting "who" are usually (always?) that of rape victims or minors. That is: the assaulted, innocent survivors receive the solace of anonymity.

To hide facts of a car chase or the oft romanticized bank robbery or a home invasion or mass shooting based on the fear that there is someone who will then want to replicate it takes us into a labyrinth of reactively filtered speech. It proposes to remove information from the news if it might trigger any imbalanced fetish out there. That, ultimately, reduces the well-informed-ness of the public.

posted by sstrader at 11:11 AM in Culture & Society | permalink