Editorial: Media’s coverage of shootings might not always be moral

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Don’t pander to the media.

In the early morning of Oct. 2, Americans awoke to the news that there was a mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada the night prior.

News outlets immediately reported the story and used phrases like, “Largest in modern history” and “Shooter had normal past.” So many news outlets wondered, “Why?”

These phrases are problematic. They give credibility to the shooter, memorializing him forever. An ethics article written recently by journalism professor Katherine Reed at Missouri School of Journalism highlighted these issues in detail.

Ultimately, the media seems to try to construct a “type” of shooter. If they fit the terrorist narrative, some news outlets run with it. White, male privilege allowed news outlets to look for why this particular shooter, Stephen Paddock, did it. It’s almost as if they’re trying desperately to prove the man had a troubled past. If we can compartmentalize him, that will offer us some peace of mind, won’t it?

The New York Times posted a detailed look into the shooter’s hotel room. Why was this story necessary? Do we really need to show how he did it, when that information is irrelevant, even scary?

Think about if you were a family member of someone who was killed during the incident. You might readily prefer an article profiling your family member rather than an article about why the shooter killed your loved one.

It also took days before news outlets actually had a broader picture of what happened that day. The number of individuals who died is still growing, because individuals continue to die from injuries they sustained in area hospitals. We can’t stop following a story.

News outlets are in a bind when they report the shooting is the largest in modern history. On one hand, that fact is true. On the other hand, it unfortunately might incite other shooters in a weird, psychological, twisted way.

There are dozens of other questions. Should shooters really be referred to as “the shooter,” or would Stephen Paddock be more appropriate? Should we profile a shooter, publish a simple post with no background information? Since shooters like Paddock are, at the end of the day, performing acts of evil. Should we humanize or generalize?

That’s why, as consumers of the media in events like these, it’s important we read multiple sources of information. Look at the Washington Post and New York Times as well as CNN, Fox and MSNBC. Their stories vary, but when put together can provide a larger story, a better, fairer picture.

Our reactions and the way we respond to shooting coverage matters. If we don’t click on the story about the shooter’s hotel room, we invalidate the story and perhaps news organizations won’t post something like that in the future.

We are the audience. We can choose to respond in ways aside from posting our grievances on social media by conducting a conversation, writing Letters to the Editor or emailing editors at local newspapers.

Think about what is morally right and adjust. Perhaps decide for yourself that, at the end of the day, memorializing the shooter is simply immoral.

For questions/comments about this editorial, email editor@thewhitonline.com or tweet @thewhitonline.

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