Time for a media black-out on gun massacres?

We’re off air now, but you can podcast the programme here

Welcome to Francisco, who becomes the first Chilean on the Daily Email list.

It’s looking likely that tomorrow’s show may include a health check on the influence and popularity of Christianity. Prompted by a number stories – Mitt Romney explaining his Mormon faith in the States today, a judge ruling that broadcasters in the UK can’t face prosecution for blasphemy yesterday being two. If you’d like to tell us about the power and influence of Christianity in your country, let me know.


Robert Hawkins predicted in his suicide note that he’d be famous once he carried out his plan, and he was right. Yesterday, he killed eight people and himself in a Nebraska shopping mall and today his face and name is featured on thousands of TV stations, websites and newspapers.Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in April. He too was confident the media would play its part. Between his two attacks he sent a video to a major US network and days later we all watched him.

Is it time the media took a collective decision to report such massacres with only the bare facts? No pictures, no suicide note, no videos, in the public domain. No live reports from the scene and no blanket coverage? Could it work? Should it be done?


I wasn’t sure if this would be of interest or not, but just in case it is, here’s the list of all the US states where we have subscribers to this email. Thanks to all of you who helped me put this together.

New York, Oregon, California, Tennessee, North Carolina, Montana, Maryland, Oklahoma, Texas, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Connecticut, Washington, Indiana, Florida, Arizona, Ohio, Colorado, Virginia, Washington DC, New Jersey, Utah, Illinois, Michigan


Mark (WHYS supremo) was showing me this blog from Iraq. It’s well worth you reading if you’ve time. Speak to you later.

64 Responses to “Time for a media black-out on gun massacres?”

  1. 1 Fan Chee (Taiwan)
    December 6, 2007 at 14:28

    This story would have provided an interesting addition to the recent debate on freedom of speech. In the US guns are not going to go away, just as the miserable souls who perpetrate these atrocities are here to stay. Do we need to know their identities? Do we need to know why? I think the answer is “No” on both counts.

  2. 2 steve
    December 6, 2007 at 14:43

    I don’t think media blackout can deter someone who is mentally ill. Honestly, to all the rational people out there, what’s the point of being “famous” if you aren’t alive to perceive it? Only in his crazy mind would he find being “famous” appealing. A rational person would realize you’re not very “famous” while rotting six feet under. So blackout or no blackout, crazy people will continue to do this.

  3. 3 George W. Bangirana
    December 6, 2007 at 14:49

    Dear WHYS,

    With as outrageous as the claims from the murderers are becoming, it may be very tempting to put a freeze on publishing the nitty gritty. Nonetheless I believe we live in the info age and afterall no news is good news. That will be treating symptoms, Society needs to dig deeper to know what is driving these young men[I havent heard of a woman] to commit such heinous crimes yet they are living more “fulfilling” lives.
    Somehow I doubt if this is always the only motive that drives these criminals and until we get to know the motives, we can not blame the media for reporting what has happenned. Here it is said that a messenger should never be killed for he is delivering a message from someone else.

  4. 4 Rochelle
    December 6, 2007 at 15:05

    I do agree! The public needs to know that an incident occured, and we will hear from the public, but we should never divulge the name of the assailant. We need not dig into the persons life to find out why they did it. We already know. The media needs to quit making these degenerates public idols. The problem is blood sells and humans are compelled by violence. I don’t know if it is a way for people to feel connected, or if our society is just so desensitized that these stories make people “feel.” I would ask the question, does knowing the person change how we preceive ourselves and our problems with the world?

  5. 5 Jerry Cordaro
    December 6, 2007 at 15:19

    I agree with you, partially. These are news events and need to be covered as such, but I don’t want or need to hear the name(s) of the shooter(s), his/her age, history of mental illness, etc. The assailant was a nobody before this happened; let him stay such after.

  6. December 6, 2007 at 15:31

    Dear Ros: Hi, how are you my good friend?! May be you guys can look at today’s story from a different side! Look at what has been happening in Iraq during the past four years, some Arab media used to broadcast video tapes of Al-Qaeda members, showing them murdering innocent hostages with their dirty swords, also those Arab media used to broadcast video tapes showing Usma Bin Ladin spreading his evil hatred teachings! So those media have given those fanatics and criminals the publicity they need and the chance to spread their evil thoughts and idiologies and make the world listen to them! Thanks to those Arab media there’re now some people in the West who think that Islam=Usama Bin Ladin! Dear Ros, have you thought of my suggestion?! What do you think of it?! With my love! Your friend Lubna!

  7. December 6, 2007 at 15:42

    Hi, It’s Martin here from World Have Your Say. In today’s programme we will be joined from Brussels by Aidan White, General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists.
    He thinks that if the intention of people like Robert Hawkins was to get publicity then we shouldn’t promote or glorify them. Self-censorship in such cases is sensible as media responsibility only works if we take ethical decisions, he says. There have been several cases in the past of media blackouts for reasons of security or danger. Even if blogs report things it’s the big media brands that matter, he says.
    If you would like to talk to Aidan, send us an email with your phonenumber to worldhaveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

  8. 8 gary
    December 6, 2007 at 15:45

    Hello All, and especially a “very good day” to Francisco,
    Mr. Atkins (and all other journalists); your job is to report the news truthfully: Keep doing it and try ever to do it more thoroughly! The information may be unpleasant; but this means it is even more necessary to be heard. We (society) must hear the truth and employ it to correct the societal ills of which it is indicative. That is our job. Sadly, our side hasn’t gotten it right yet; but you must not pay attention to those of us who have their heads stuck in the sand. Keep reporting.

  9. December 6, 2007 at 15:46

    Hi Ros,

    As always your stories are interesting. However, this one touches too close to home.

    I think the media should cover these stories up to a point. I think it is important to remember the lives lost and the impact these events will have on the community. I do not think that the media should show images, video or read suicide notes from the gunman. By doing so they justify and accomplish the selfish point the gunman was looking to achieve. We should not glorify those who cause harm; they should be left to the police and the courts.

    In May 2001, my point of view was changed forever. A gunman walked onto my university campus and opened fire, killing a loved professor before turning the gun on himself. (see article) Within 24 hours, all the students and faculty knew the name and image of the person who had shattered our sense of peace and safety and changed our lives. I will never forget the gunman’s name or image. It has been burned into my mind forever. I wish more coverage had been given to the university and the wonderful community, faculty and parents that came to our support. I wish the media had given more coverage to the celebration of the professor’s life.

    Thank you for the chance to comment.


  10. 10 John D. Anthony
    December 6, 2007 at 15:59

    The networks wouldn’t cover these stories if they thought people were changing channels when they did it. If you don’t like what you see, vote with your remote.

  11. December 6, 2007 at 16:01

    Hello All, and especially a “very good day” to Francisco,
    Mr. Atkins (and all other journalists); your job is to report the news truthfully: Keep doing it and try ever to do it more thoroughly! The information may be unpleasant; but this means it is even more necessary to be heard. We (society) must hear the truth and employ it to correct the societal ills of which it is indicative. That is our job. Sadly, our side hasn’t gotten it right yet; but you must not pay attention to those of us who have their heads stuck in the sand. Keep reporting.

  12. December 6, 2007 at 16:19

    With ICT development facts without picture or videos will render mainstream media useless. Note that citizen journalism is developing quickly and it won’t give chance to mainstream media if it slags.

    The big threat to media coverage is sensationalism and commercialization.
    Jared in Kampala

  13. 13 Anthony
    December 6, 2007 at 16:26

    Will it make an impact if our media ignores these shootings? Maybe. Will they stop covering these stories? YEAH RIGHT!!! Do you really think these huge corporations care about 9 people killed when they make so much money off of advertising dollars? You all forget that all these news companies are owned by the corporate big wigs!!! A few lives are defiantly worth millions of dollars in their eyes. Its also the American people for wanting to eat these stories up. Remember, Jerry Springer used to be the number one show on T.V.!!!

    -Anthony, Los Angeles, California

  14. 14 Xie_Ming
    December 6, 2007 at 16:27

    In Ancient Greece, one man wrote that the way to be remembered (then the only prospect of immortality) was to kill a famous man.

    Terrorists act more for publicity than for body count (thus beheadings, etc.)

    Teenagers using firearms seem to have at least four motivations:

    (1) TV has taught them that all problems can be quickly solved in a one-hour show through the use of firemarms or explosives.

    (2) Death with weapons is like a virtual computer game.

    (3) Revenge for humiliations can be had through such deadly means.

    (4) The publicity accorded one performing such an act will give him dignity and posthumous stature.

    A solution would be self-censorship by the media (would tabloids ever do so?). Recommended no names of perpetrators, no details of the terrorist act. E.g. “nine persons were shot in a murder and suicide incident at X.” “Five hostages were slain by terrorists at Y”.

    Officials asked for comment could follow the same downplaying pattern.

  15. 15 steve
    December 6, 2007 at 16:37

    I have a rather morbid and disgusting suggestion that might deter people who think going out in a blaze of “glory” will bring them fame. Film their autopsy. Show them having their abdomen opened from neck to crotch. Show them revmoving all of the organs, then weight them. Show them sawing open the head to inspect the brain. Then, stick a camera in their coffin and show the various states of decomposition. Show them what “fame” really is. After all, these people wanted attention, let’s give them attention after death.

  16. December 6, 2007 at 17:26

    William Glynn
    WUVT Business Manager
    The issue regarding media exposure of difficult events is tricky to say the least. No one enjoys making these horrific events seem less awful than they really are by reporting them, but it is part of journalistic ethics to make sure people are receiving the news fairly and objectively. If a news organization were to attempt to do the more human thing and not report on an event such as this, the result would them not being watched. When it comes to matters of security and safety, there obviously needs to be restrictions put on news organizations when reporting. When it comes to other unpleasant events, it is up to the news organization to decide what is fair and appropriate. The driving factor in these cases should be, however, journalistic ethics rather than a push for ratings. From the experiences here at Virginia Tech I can tell you that many news organizations do not put the human interest first when reporting. At the radio station people attempted to bribe us into releasing potentially sensitive information about our friends and classmates. By the end of the semester, no one wanted to turn on the news or talk to a single reporter. Some organizations, but not all, really added to the unpleasant events by prodding too far. I think that there needs to be a re-evaluation of priorities when it comes to reporting so that deeply emotional and personal events do not become so sensationalized.

  17. 17 Joe in Portland, OR
    December 6, 2007 at 17:48

    Focus media attention on the victoms, not the attacker. Tell it as the sad story of loss that it is instead of telling how amazing it is that the attacker killed and hurt so many people before he was stopped. It always sounds too close to a video game final score. There are scores of family and friends of the victoms left behind and the victoms themselves robbed of the rest of their lives.

    But definately try to find out what happened. Police and other appropriate authorities do need to know why it happened so we might be able to treat the problem instead of just the symptom. This part just doesn’t need to be reported. Liberally pass out what information is learned about prevention only.

  18. 18 L. Walker
    December 6, 2007 at 18:08

    the act itself belies a deeper problem.
    why is it that no one is looking into the care of the mentally ill? how can someone slip through the cracks and degrade enough to consider murder and suicide a proper end? It seems all these shooters had some kind of social or mental problems that were overlooked or went ignored.

    fix the problem, don’t muzzle the media.

  19. 19 Nicholas from Ft. Lauderdale Florida USA
    December 6, 2007 at 18:09

    I don’t think the media should buy into the hoax, that they are playing a role of making these killers famous. The world needs to know about tragedies such as the one at the Omaha Mall which took place yesterday.
    However, we need stop ignoring those that may have trouble minds.

  20. 20 Nick
    December 6, 2007 at 18:11

    Fame the aim. Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame forecast was very accurate. He saw the weight this increasingly superficial and material society puts on celebrity and the successful branding of status symbols. Fame and violent fame has become a status symbol, a source of identity for many people who wander this world with a large hole inside them that has either been created by their unfortunate upbringing and/or widened by the greed and envy produced by the constant bombardment of advertising and the entertainment media suggesting “ýou ain’t cool till your seen” Its the Tyranny OF Video and I have copy righted that so hands off! Too many guns in America. Nick from New York.

  21. 21 Adam Monteilh. la, usa
    December 6, 2007 at 18:11

    It is the responsibility of the news to report on events that affect our society. Perhaps the media can give attention to these atrocities without giving fame to the killers by not releasing their faces and names. In that way, the respect will go to victims of such crimes — those who deserve it.

  22. 22 John Woods
    December 6, 2007 at 18:11

    It’s appalling that people can place any blame at the feet of the media in a tragedy like this. Would you ignore what happened? Nine dead, in an opulent shopping mall? At Christmas? It’s absurd. …Talk about the proliferation of guns. Talk about issues of security. But not covering these stories would be a greater tragedy. Robert Hawkins is infamous, if anything. He wanted people to remember him. And we will, for being a maladjusted loser who couldn’t handle the very ordinary ups and downs of life. I don’t think that’s what he had in mind when he walked into that store.

  23. 23 AYO, usa
    December 6, 2007 at 18:11


  24. 24 Anne, Kansas City
    December 6, 2007 at 18:12

    Just wanted to have my say about the media and the recent shootings. First I wanted to extend my sympathies to the families of the victims. This is a tragedy in every sense of the word. Second I wanted to say I believe that the media should be more selective in what they broadcast as far as details, pictures, suicide notes, etc. It just gives delusional people a twisted reason to carry out acts such as this. I was just at this particular mall in August and couldn’t believe the news. How awful. No city should have to endure something like this, let alone an unassuming, wonderful and friendly one like Omaha.

  25. 25 Rob, Texas
    December 6, 2007 at 18:13

    Yes. The media should stop helping shooting spree artists. The reporting is much like that of an airplane accident where we get to see the 10 best airplane crashes of the decade listed with each report. With massacres we get a recap of all the biggest and best ones, too. The tragedy is news and should be reported but the playing into the shooters hands with fame is not helpful.

  26. December 6, 2007 at 18:14

    I agree with Xie-Ming. A media blackout on the shooters’ name and image, such as is seen in certain court cases, would prevent the fame-seeking individual from achieving one of his main objectives. If the knowledge of his identity is kept local, rather than being spread over the global news, then the newsworthiness of the item (location, number of deceased/wounded, narration of the event) need not be impaired. It’s obvious that keeping guns out of the hands of the general public would also decrease the lethalness and frequency of such attacks (the recent foiling by German police of a plot by two teenagers can be taken as a proven example of this. The boys concerned were unable to find weapons easily (they had no high powered guns) and the length of time taken to find adequate weapons may have given the police enough time to catch them before they acted.)

    Not allowing the shooters’ name and face to appear on the global media and making it hard to find high powered weaponry would decrease both the motivation and the means of carrying out such an attack.

  27. 27 Chris Bartolini Los Angeles
    December 6, 2007 at 18:14

    Yes the news media should limit the “glamour” and the “panic horror”
    exploitation of daily madness. Beyond fame seekers I extend it to the coverage of “terrorism” the media is their voice, and in my mind is walking a dangerous line of complicity.

  28. 28 Ken in Cleveland
    December 6, 2007 at 18:15

    I think the media should keep showing every public shooting that occurs in the US. The gunmen might get their twisted version of fame but it will also draw more attention to how ineffective our gun laws truly are. It’s time to stop feeding our already sick nation a steady diet of poison.

  29. 29 Heather, Texas
    December 6, 2007 at 18:19

    I work in Radio here in Texas, and we reported on the story a few times this morning, but it was certainly not breaking news, nor did we cover it more widely than the space shuttle launch.
    Sadly, these shootings are no longer shocking–and any (I am being cynical here…) extra attention that TV would consider doing is no longer worth it. When yeas ago, America was glued to the TV after Columbine, now we just shake our heads at the tragedy.
    Thank you.

  30. 30 Anon
    December 6, 2007 at 18:19

    Perhaps if I stopped watching war would the media stop reporting it? The media is unable to look away from a spectacular car wreck and we are unable to resist looking at what we are shown.

  31. 31 John in Salem
    December 6, 2007 at 18:24

    The networks wouldn’t cover these stories if they thought people were changing channels when they do it. If you don’t like what you see, vote with your remote.

  32. 32 Ayleen, Portland, Oregon
    December 6, 2007 at 18:24

    In a breaking story, the media sensationalizes because they’re trying to be the one to get the story first and get the most attention to boost their ratings. It’s a real shame, but for commercial American media sources, it all comes down to advertising dollars.

  33. 33 Steve Lewis
    December 6, 2007 at 18:32

    You just commented that people must be interested in the story because you are getting so much response on the story. Don’t conflate an interest in media criticism with an interest in the root of your story, in this case murder. This is not the first time you have made that mistake.

  34. 34 Bryan, Ohio
    December 6, 2007 at 18:32

    Why not just refer to the perpetrator as the shooter and don’t show his picture or talk about his life. Let the media talk about the victims instead. The only people that get hurt by talking about the shooter is the shooter’s family.

  35. 35 Erin
    December 6, 2007 at 18:33

    This is the wrong question. We shouldn’t ask whether or not the media should report on this, but whether the media is reporting correctly. There is a difference between a basic report, and taking over hours and hours of news time with repeated stories and a barrage of video clips and images repeated at the top of every hour. The first is reporting and the second is making a criminal famous…

  36. 36 gary
    December 6, 2007 at 18:33

    Hello All,
    Just listening while proctoring an exam: My condolences to all those who’ve lost a loved one in any widely-reported criminal event. It is true of course, some news people are insensitive (Every occupation has insensitive practioners.). They should not be. Journalistic Societies should spend more efforts policing their own. But, just as stages provide venues for people acting in silly ways and sports stadia provide venues for naked running people (steakers), new reports simply provide a large venue (audience)for events. The important question is why do these people (mass killers) choose to exit the green room and walk on to the stage, and of course, “How do we detect (and help) them while they’re still in the green room?”

  37. 37 Bryan, Ohio
    December 6, 2007 at 18:33

    I find nothing wrong with covering the news. Mention what happened and move on. What I find appauling is the incesent and myopic coverage. It gives the impression that nothing else of importance happened that day.

  38. 38 Steve, Virginia
    December 6, 2007 at 18:35

    The media never releases pictures of the killer’s corpse. Would he think it were “fame” if they were to release the picture of his exploded head?
    How about the autopsy pictures? Was that the kind of fame he was wanting? The entire world seeing his mutilated body? I would think this might discourage people, but then again, they are crazy, but maybe it might discourage future killers if they knew what they would look like after a gunshot wound to the head and an autopsy?

  39. 39 MJ Gachuhi
    December 6, 2007 at 18:36

    I have missed half your show but i’m curious what fame is worth when you are dead?
    he may have wanted it but whats it worth for him now?

  40. 40 Rami
    December 6, 2007 at 18:37

    Hello there,
    I believe it is the appropriate time for America to consider applying tougher gun control laws.

    Thank you,

  41. 41 Chernor Jalloh
    December 6, 2007 at 18:38

    Those people that are taking the lives of innocent people are suffering from mental illness and the media is not to be blamed for having broadcast the faces of the evil omens on TV. However youths that only see that because of they have tired of life they must take another person’s own with them is utterly wrong in any terms.In the west children are now exposed to drugs, alchol cigarettes and cannabis at an earler age.It is the responsibility of the police to handle such crimes.If the police can use all its intelligency to avert terrorists attacks, why are they so naive to tackle such crimes?For example here in Spain not a single day passes by without seen on TV a young boy or girl has killed their parents or girl friends.Then friends and families including neighbours would say those kids have no problem with the community and after a police invetigation the final conclution would be he or she had taken extasis or cocaine.There are also some reports by the Spanish authority which says Spain is the third European country that has the highest consumers of cocaine.This is terrible.The media should be left to do its job independently as long as it does poke too much in the affairs of other people that will endanger their privacy.

  42. 42 Lisa Ann in Cleveland, OH
    December 6, 2007 at 18:39

    Reporting the story with pictures and known information is acceptable, but when our Headline News spends all day glorifying the shooter and the story it does not help anyone. The US media is guilty of putting these horrible crimes ahead of the entire world.

  43. 43 K Casey, Portland, Oregan
    December 6, 2007 at 18:40

    I think you can report the massacre. But not to the extent and detail that many of the TV news magazines go to.
    Report the facts leave the video and gruesome details out.

    Also concentrate on the innocent lives taken and the loss these families have suffered. The families will never get over the senseless death of their family members.
    Do not concentrate on the sick fantasies of the killer. This is what they want, this is part of the reason as to why they do it.

  44. 44 John in Portland, Oregon, US
    December 6, 2007 at 18:41

    I think it is a gross oversimplification to say that these shooters are glory hounds out looking for fame. These people are tragically emotionally disturbed; their motives are not rational. That being said, I find it highly unlikely that any person in reasonable mental health would be prompted to copy these actions through watching media coverage of the shooters, as some of your guests seem to be implying.

  45. 45 Rich, Oregon Public Broadcasting
    December 6, 2007 at 18:44

    The press lives for this type of story, world over. A ban on this would be impossible to enforce, not to mention being freedom of speech issues.

  46. 46 Kris
    December 6, 2007 at 18:49

    I feel that if the majority of people would only support the media that report the facts without the reporters opinion or spin on it. The world could be a better place.

    I feel all the ” sensitive awareness” and “political correctness” would help, but people sadly patronize such de-hunanizing events like ” american idle” society needs to wake up.
    Do not support filthy greed such as outragioius ball players pay, and so on.
    Since so many people have time and money to support this greed, use that time and money to support someone that really needs human sopport and compasion.

    Would that not reduce such human tragedy ??

  47. 47 oyvind (norway, living in mozambique)
    December 6, 2007 at 18:51

    hey, i just wondered if we can restrict media from writing what they want…how can we make sure this will not be a violation of the freedom of speech?

    If we start restricting something…who should decide what should be restricted?

  48. 48 L. Walker
    December 6, 2007 at 18:52

    Anon: Perhaps if I stopped watching war would the media stop reporting it?

    better question: would people stop fighting it?

  49. 49 Margot in Portland OR
    December 6, 2007 at 18:58

    Regarding the coverage of mass shootings: It is necessary for the public to hear about these events. The basic facts: where, when, the name of the shooter, the number of victims and their names, are good. Beyond that, just a minimum of history about the shooter, and much more focus on who the victims were.

    I know in the US most of our media are businesses concentrating on the bottom line, and will go to any extreme to grab interest. The government will not, and probably shouldn’t, try to control this. As long as the public is so gullible and flock to any event that is sensationalized, it’s hard to imagine the media changing their ways. It seems the only hope would be that the media might agree among themselves to treat these matters in the way that would best benefit the public good.

  50. December 6, 2007 at 19:09

    The media should not be crucified for reporting gross expressions of human nature. A messenger should not be shot, so to speak, for passing on a message. In my view, if what is being said is largely factual, it is for the public, and society at large to decide how to respond to the situation.

    We all need to re-examine ways of minimising the likelihood of such excesses in society wihout looking for a scapegoat in the media.

  51. 51 Earle
    December 6, 2007 at 19:16

    Was listening this day and was stuned bythe Piouty of the media discussions. The talker’s all assumed that they were GOD like, THEY should deside what is needed by the public, what is wanted by the public and that THEY are somehow better qualified to make the judgement.

  52. 52 Arlene
    December 6, 2007 at 19:19

    I agree that ultimately, it is the consumer who should decide. It is the consumer’s insatiable appetite for the gory details that drive the continued sensationalist reporting we see and hear today. But in deference to journalistic integrity, it also behooves those that are reporting the news to make a stand on when enough is enough. Case in point (although in a more “trivial” instance) would be MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski who refused to discuss and report any more news about Paris Hilton.

  53. 53 Tim
    December 6, 2007 at 19:46

    Ros seemed to suggest at one point early on that news was what people wanted to know about. Last year the top story in the Seattle Times (or PI?) was about a man having sex with horses. Just following viewer/reader/listeners interests as guaged by what gets attention will drag you into the gutter pretty quick. If it were purely a case of giving people what they want, there would be a lot more nudity on the news, but a decision has been made at some point that that isn’t acceptable. Perhaps a similar decision could be made with regard to some aspect of these mass murderer stories.

    Better yet would be regulation that enforced a certain amount of non-profit news casting, so that editors could make decisions based just on what they thought was newsworthy and not on what would make the most money. I do think, for example, that NPR does a better job at staying away from sensationalism than any of the big broadcast companies, and I attribute that to their nonprofit status.

  54. 54 Joe Polly
    December 6, 2007 at 22:00

    The privacy concerning the victims contrasts with the publicity concerning the perpetrator.The purpose of any news media is “a good story”. Thats what “sells”.In this case its the killer who sells.Like it or not thats how it works worldwide.Since Finland and Virginia Tech to take only the latest examples, I have seen not one word about the victims of the killers.Who were they? What were they? No one knows because noone asks.The story is “cold” so noone will want to know.Thats the media mentality unfortunately. I see negligible sign of it changing currently.Its a problem of moral values.And those values are upside down which is why the perpetrator is news (which I do not object to) and the victims are anonymous not news (which I do object to).

  55. December 7, 2007 at 01:24

    I’m weighing in a bit late, but I have to disagree with anyone who thinks a media blackout of at least the killer’s identity is an infringement of free speech. In reality, the media is already legislated against showing the identity of minor offenders and of the deceased (the latter at least until next of kin are contacted). So “free speech” does not rule the media. Also, it’s quite common for the media to work with law enforcement and withold certain details in crimes in order to aid investigations. This is done without legislation. Withholding the identities of mass killers would not only work in the favor of law enforcement but of society as a whole. The media wants its pound of flesh, but they can still have it by publicizing eye witness accounts, recordings and so forth.

  56. 56 Xie_Ming
    December 7, 2007 at 08:18

    The pious-sounding principles posted by some media persons above suggest an ignorance of a former journalistic taboo: the sex-lives of politicians.

    During the Kennedy administration, many Washington journalists were aware of the multiple affairs of the President and his brother. It was only years later that their sharing of an interest in Marilyn Monroe, for example, came into print.

    The taboo seemed to fade with LBJ, who openly talked of the “nooky room” off his office.

    This illustrates, I think, that self-censorship by the press can work.

  57. 57 Ken
    December 7, 2007 at 12:47

    The CIA, FBI, and RCMP agree that the “impact zone” of such unfortunate events is broad entirely because of media coverage.

    Many countries have a voluntary censorship of suicide because coverage does trigger similar events.

    Therefore, those of us with critical incidence training should stand up and ask the public and media to reconsider blackouts of certain topics. Media coverage promotes imitative behavior. I see it in my job with increasing and alarming regularity. The widespread and detailed coverage of terrorism and isolated violent incidents is like pouring gasoline on a fire.

    The oxymoron is that the public wants freedom of press and at the same time, a secure nation.

    The question is not whether we must protect the public by limiting press freedom (we must), but rather how will we educate the general public to understand the ever-broadening impact zone of media coverage of violence.

    Once the public understands the information, it would support some control mechanisms.

    The remaining questions would also be challenging: how broad the scope, how to establish cooperation between various nations on limited censorship, and how to convince critics that some censorship is in fact desirable and already in place in other areas.

    The process is desirable because it would save many, many lives.

  58. December 7, 2007 at 12:57

    Dear Ros
    In 1963 when Myra Hindley and Ian Brady were standing for trial it was acknowledged that the court proceedings had to be reported in full but we all feared some copy-cat killer thinking it would be a good idea to toture children to death. So all our papers came to an agreement; it would be fully reported in The Times – then a much-unread paper – on inside pages. All others printed the same truncated version of the trial.
    We could say if only our press had the same moral codes today as then, but is society generally as moral today as then? We get not only the government we deserve; we get that press too.
    Best wishes
    Teresa Baldwinson

  59. December 7, 2007 at 13:41

    I question the value to society of reporting actions such as the Omaha shooting beyond the initial incident. I agree with one of the early callers that it should be reported and leave it at that. What value is there of hours of reporting on this one incident beside pandering to peoples’ prurient interest? I seriously doubt this level of reporting really helps identify and deter such actions in the future.

    I question whether the relentless reporting on actions like the Omaha shooting encourages others to take up similar actions but rather sales a lot of advertising. I hate to feel so cynical but my life is not enriched by this type of reporting.

  60. December 7, 2007 at 13:42

    Good day Ros.

    Yes it is time for a media black-out on gun massacres. The coverage is not only emboldening the murderers but is creating potential murders by making us insensitive to killings. The good book (bible) says “by beholding we become changed”. Common sense should have caused us to ban reporting of this kind from the beginning but I am sure it will never stop. The horse has already bolted the gate and we don’t live in a homogenous world. Some humanist, atheist and Christians are no doubt already formulating their objection on the grounds of freedom. As we say in Jamaica we are “caught between a rock and a hard place”.


  61. December 9, 2007 at 20:21

    Just here to say i agree with ehat everyones saying and hope this happens thanks dave

  62. 62 Syed Hasan Turab
    December 9, 2007 at 22:35

    Public media in electronic media time without destination & responsibility is a big threat to oncomming & prevailing generations. Infact technology advancement is way ahead from our journalism, under this sitution sick human bahaviour is natural with a serious check call for prevailing journalism.
    We may change our approch of communication in religious way been adopted by Mohammad, Jesus, Moses & Budha.

  63. 63 Will Rhodes
    December 11, 2007 at 01:33

    This is going to read seriously ridiculous but please bare with me. The shooting that have occurred are much like the weather, or I should say the weather channel – you have to watch Rick Mercer Report to understand this fully. He did a sketch on how the weather is being sensationalised in Canada, and I agree, in his spat he went on to say that the weather outside in Toronto was a blizzard, wind gusting to such an extent that people couldn’t walk. Yet, those who lived in Toronto looked out side and there was a mere 3cm of snow and a guy walking his dog in a tee-shirt – funny stuff really.

    But this is my point, the News Media sensationalises much of what happens in the mass shootings, which does lead to those who are mentally ill (you have to be mentally ill to have that kind of gun) going out and committing such crimes – look at the recent fellow who took over Hillary Clinton’s office. He knew the cop cars and news cameras would be there in a jiffy – exactly what he wanted. If, on the other hand, the news had been blacked out and he couldn’t see what he wanted he would have come out much earlier and those inside would not now be in post traumatic stress.

    Yes do report that there has been an incident – but leave it at that – the US has to deal with the NRA, hopefully that will be soon.

  64. 64 Stacy
    December 12, 2007 at 02:27

    My concern isn’t about copycats, etc. but really about what isn’t covered when the American news industry is spending all their time on these minor events.

    Case in point- this past weekend CNN was supposed to show a special on the developments in the US on Iran with the release of the recent NIA. But instead of discussing this topic that, CNN used the time to “report” (just repeating the same five facts over and over again) on a shooting in a Colorado church.

    Which of these is the more important story? The friction between two hostile governments? Or a shooting in a small town? Incidents like this and the disappearance of young white women eat up more and more time on the news in this country.

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