Just one week ago, newsrooms mobilized to cover yet another mass shooting, this time in a municipal building in Virginia Beach. As they told the story of the 12 murders, the vast majority of newspapers and TV stations covering the tragedy embraced the practice of not using the shooter’s name unless it was absolutely necessary.
For an industry that is often criticized for being slow to change, this development is remarkable.
It demonstrates that newsrooms can alter their standards and practices in a fairly dramatic way over a relatively short period of time when presented with convincing evidence, even after refusing to make those same changes in the face of public pressure but weak evidence. Even so, stepping forward into the new best practice, journalists are still clearly looking for the balance of relevant accountability reporting about the backgrounds of specific shooters that informs citizens without glorifying a criminal at the expense of victims or worse, creating materials that will inspire future mass murders.
The pressure to not name shooters began in 2012, after the attack on a Colorado movie theater. Tom and Caren Teves, whose son Alex died in the shooting, founded the No Notoriety movement. Four years ago, in 2015, CNN’s Anderson Cooper pledged not to utter a shooter’s name. Just two years ago in 2017, a handful of local and national news anchors followed suit. Cooper and the handful of anchors who joined him caught a fair amount of criticism from other journalists, including me.
Read more here: https://www.poynter.org/ethics-trust/2019/not-naming-mass-shooters-much-is-now-the-norm/