Mass shootings: It is not the media’s job to bring fame to shooters

Bridgette Windell

Mass shootings have become an epidemic. It seems as though every week there is another occurrence that puts multiple people in danger and causes many to lose their lives.

In Colorado, we are not new to mass shootings, and that fact in itself is concerning. Our state’s history is polluted with crimes ranging from Columbine, to the Aurora shooting, and now the most recent Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado Springs.

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Five days following Colorado’s Planned Parenthood shooting, was yet another shooting in San Bernardino, California. This shooting was the most deadly since Sandy Hook and yet not much has changed in the way we handle these situations.

The fact that we identify these shootings as an “event” is saddening. The fact that there are so many of them, that it is becoming a norm, is even more worrisome.

The media plays a large part in the coverage of these mass shootings, and makes me wonder if that coverage has anything to do with the consistent recurrence of mass shootings.

Lately, news corporations have been experimenting with the idea of “glorifying” the shooter versus not releasing the shooter’s information at all. Although news corporations may not be intentionally trying to glorify the shooter, it seems as if the constant amounts of coverage transforms the shooters identity into a common household name. These modern “villains” have acquired a certain type of fame, even though they have committed a horrific crime.

While I do believe that some shooters do suffer from serious mental illnesses, I don’t think that a condition or a mass shooting as a result of that mental illness should be exploited. In terms of the news, it is one thing to report on a sensitive subject such as shootings, and another to exploit the persons involved.

Copycat crimes have been identified multiple times as an effect of the media’s extensive amount of coverage. The media inspires these copycat crimes, and their coverage offers notoriety of the shooter. Together, these two aspects create an opening for mass shootings to become a norm in our society.

In October, Obama addressed the victims of the Umpqua Community College shooting in Oregon, and noted that these speeches have become a routine. Rampant killings should not be a norm or a routine. Media has a social responsibility to the public: to report important and accurate information. In the United States, the media tends to be individually-focused. News systems focus on the individual consequences of crimes committed, and rarely focus on the societal implications. For example: we focus on just the impact of the Planned Parenthood shooting versus rampant shooting being a common theme in our society.

Although the media isn’t solely to blame for mass shootings, I do believe that it plays a role in the common recurrence of them. Shooters names should be released in order to hold them accountable for their actions, but their actions should not be glorified.

The United States is a very individualistic society, and the media reinforces that ideal. As a society we focus on the shooter and blame them for committing a horrific crime, instead of looking at our society itself and asking if we are creating an environment for mass shootings to become the norm.  

Instead of focusing on the individual crime of the shooter as a majority of the content, I think news sources should be more analytical and introspective in their reporting. Instead of just one shooter’s name mentioned consistently, media should take a larger look at our society and adopt the mentality of  introspection in terms of our society’s norms and culture.   

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Bottom line: the media has a social responsibility and should look for a solution to the exploitation of shootings instead of facilitating it.

Collegian Columnist Bridgette Windell can be reached at letters@collegian.com, or on Twitter @Bridgette_Rae.