News and Shooters: Do Shooters Deserve the Spotlight?

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News and Shooters: Do Shooters Deserve the Spotlight?

Asheby Kearns, Writer

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Thousand Oaks, California: 12 dead. Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: 11 dead. Parkland, Florida: 17 dead. Shootings plague the news almost as often as politics do.

According to Gun Violence Archive, 308 mass shootings occurred from the beginning of 2018 to November 12th, 2018. The news is quick to report on shootings and provide information, but is providing too much information the motivation behind other mass shootings?

With the uptick of shootings, since the infamous 1999 Columbine shooting, publishing information about the shooter could inspire others planning something similar. According to New America and The New Yorker, John LaDue, who was seventeen at the time he planned to murder his family, detonate bombs, and commit a mass shooting at his high school in Waseca, Minnesota admitted, “‘My number one idol is Eric Harris. … I think I just see myself in him.’”

Eric Harris was one of the shooters involved in the 1999 Columbine shooting.

When a mass shooting is reported, the journalists give a notably detailed account. Reporters detail the home life and mentality of the shooter, in addition to how the atrocities are committed. Remarkably detailing the shooting and shooter could cause individuals to develop a fascination with the wrong idols.

This example can be viewed by the increase of shootings since Columbine. As reported by The Villanovan, fifty significant mass shootings transpired at the time The Villanova’s article was published. Many more appear in our news up to the present day.

Despite the potential to wrongly influence, news sources could argue the importance of publishing information. As stated by Kelly McBride from Poynter,  “When you name an individual and tell his story, you give people important context for the backstory.” She continues to explain, “If we had not named Seung-Hui Cho as the Virginia Tech assailant, his teachers might not have come forward to report they had voiced concerns about his mental health in the past.

Publishing information concerning the motive and factors of a shooter can help pick out similar behavior. Psychologists and other medical or scientific experts can utilize this information, which could prevent future shootings.

By knowing the warning signs, it helps similar persons realign their mentality. Those plotting similar acts of violence can be helped by therapy. Therapists or psychologists trained in understanding the warning signs of the behavior can either help the patient through the thoughts or report it to the authorities.

There is a con to knowing how to identify probable aggravators of mass violence. If an aggressor has a history of mental illness, individuals could conceivably villainize those with mental illness. For instance, the Thousand Oaks gunman was “a former U.S. Marine machine gunner who may have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Blaming either veterans or others with PTSD can be harmful. The probability of another being with PTSD and a military background becoming an aggravator of mass violence is presumably very slim. Individuals who associate a mass group of mental illness to an individual committing a foul deed perhaps need to look at the bigger picture and statistics.

Any one thing a journalist publishes, concerning an event of mass violence, is their right. The first amendment specifically offers journalists freedom of speech. Whatever information stated in a piece on shootings is determined by the journalist and whomever the publishing company is.

Additionally, a journalist’s job intends to inform their readers. Readers prefer to receive all knowledgeable information. It’s beneficial when understanding why violence was committed.

Regardless of choosing to provide information on an assailant of mass violence or not, that is up to the journalist. Should journalists consider excluding the name and face of a shooter when writing? Possibly, but the call is theirs, as well as the encouragement to do what they feel is best.

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