While the idea of not reporting on shootings like the “Batman” massacre in Colorado is certainly appealing, it is unrealistic and would not solve the underlying issues.
When the United States was jarred by the Columbine, Colo., shootings of 1999, when two young gunmen killed 13 people and injured 21, it was a shocking concept. No one envisioned then the idea that someone could be deranged enough to plan out an attack that would take innocent lives.
Sadly, the tragedy has been repeated too many times since then, leading many to wonder: If the media did not “glorify” these gunmen by prominently covering their murderous rampages, would these types of killings continue?
It is a concept that journalists struggle with also. Our job is to tell readers what is happening in the area, the world, the nation. If a car accident where a few people are hurt is news, so, certainly, is a deadly attack where numerous innocents die.
The media can’t ignore that. We can, however, restrain our coverage; the Press-Republican did not report the shootings on A1, though we would have if it had happened in our area.
It does no good to pretend that terrible acts are not happening in our world. As hard as they are to read about — and write about — the fact that they take place needs to be addressed. People need to know that while most mentally ill people do not terrorize others, some do. It is important that research and treatment be assessed so we can find a way to prevent minds from conceiving these horrors and acting upon them.
On the Press-Republican Facebook page, we asked what people think of coverage of mass shootings like the one in Colorado. Among the responses:
▶ “People commit these acts for notoriety. This guy will now live in infamy.”
▶ “The ‘face of evil’ should always be seen so we can recognize it.”
▶ “You have no idea how much it sickens me every time someone reads that article about him to see his stupid smirking face on my Facebook.”
▶ “Many of these losers know that they will accomplish nothing in life and perform these acts strictly for the notoriety. No mention should be made of their names, sad childhoods, psychiatric failings, etc. They should be non-entities, publicly.”
▶ “The more you put their face in public eye, the more you are contributing to their sick behavior! They thrive on the publicity!”
▶ “I think we should let everyone know that after a while the law is going to catch up with you. For every action, there is a consequence.”
The Facebook debate developed into a discussion about mental illness, gun laws and public safety — all issues that we need to probe, not ignore.
That is part of the healthy conversation that can arise from sick circumstances.