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Dear Media, Please Keep the Killer Silent

Something shocking, and unfortunately not-so shocking, occurred on October 1, 2015.

Students at UCC hold candlelight vigils for the victims of the shooting. (Photo Credit: Calvin Hodgson, Flickr)

Students at UCC hold candlelight vigils for the victims of the shooting. (Photo Credit: Calvin Hodgson, Flickr)

On that day, yet another school shooting took place in America near Roseburg, Oregon at Umpqua Community College.

However, what was different about this shooting was the news coverage of the event. It was what the media and public were not talking about – the name of the shooter.

If someone asked me to the name the shooter, I wouldn’t be able to. This is the only positive outcome of this tragedy.

In its past coverage of mass shootings, the media has somewhat glorified the actions of killers and spent countless hours analyzing their motives. By doing that, they lessen the time that should be devoted to the victims and their memories. As a journalism major who would like to work in news television, I believe that is wrong. The news cycle post-mass shootings should focus on the victims and survivors, not the monster that destroyed a community.

This monster, this shooter, this killer should be kept silent by the media.

Personally, I do not want to hear the name, the story, the motives, or anything about the killer. I want hear about the victims and survivors; the innocent people who did not deserve to be part of this horrible event.

Mass killers should not be gloried by the media or anyone in general. Not only are their crimes unspeakable, it is often said that copycat killers are inspired by other killers, seeking fame, notoriety, and revenge. But there is nothing glorifying about their crime. Nothing about it should make them “famous.”

As a resident of Connecticut who lives within 30 minutes of one of the worst mass shootings in this country’s history, to learn the name of the person who killed 20 children two weeks before Christmas was a horrible, unforgettable moment I wish I never experienced.

Knowing his name, having to hear it for weeks on end and learning his motive did not advance the story. It made me sick to hear it on repeat, knowing what he did.

What moved me was to learn the stories of the victims and survivors. It made me realize that the focus should be on them, not their killer.

As a human being, to think that someone could murder multiple people is horrific enough, but to put an identity on this person is even worse.

However, while I do not believe the media should name the shooter, it is still important for them as a news organization to inform their viewers of the facts.

Their obligation is to report the news and relay any developments that will move the story – the basic details like the “when, where, and how” of the situation.

But the “who” should be the victims, not the criminal.

The media got that right with Umpqua when they revealed that while they knew the identity of the shooter, they would not disclose that information and give him the infamy he craves. Instead, the coverage that I watched was in remembrance of the victims and survivors.

Since Umpqua, there have been two more school shootings, both occurring on October 9; one at Northern Arizona University, the other at Texas Southern University.

In both cases, I cannot tell you the name of the shooter.

The media is to thank for that.

The media is learning, very slowly, how to properly cover mass shootings. Umpqua will be seen as turning point – the moment when we all stopped focusing to the shooter and paying attention to the victims.

The American public may not be able to agree on how to combat mass shootings, but I believe we can all agree that is better to know the victims and their stories rather than the killer’s. It should no longer be acceptable to name a killer instead of their targets.

So, to all the media out there, the next time there is a mass shooting, please remember the victims and keep the killer silent.

*Piece originally published in The Circle

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