Monday, October 12, 2015

How important is the name

Blaise Weber
As most people know by now, tragedy struck last week in Oregon when a gunman entered a local community college, and killed nine people and injured nine more. The shooter was killed in exchange of fire with police.

With this tragedy sparks some age old questions in journalism ethics. What is necessary to report in a situation like this? Are we encouraging others to do this by reporting about it? Perhaps the most interesting dilemma arises when discussing personal details about the shooter.

Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin sparked a national debate regarding one particular question. Are we giving the shooter credit by reporting his name?

Hanlin certainly seemed to believe so. "I will not give him the credit he probably sought prior to this horrific and cowardly act,"is what Hanlin said regarding his stance on not uttering the shooters name. Media outlets eventually decided to limit the name of the shooter, Chris Harper-Mercer, only to when it is necessary, but when exactly is it necessary? When does become a journalistic duty to provide personal details about the shooter.

Let's start with something like the picture above. For any story, pictures obviously give it more life and detail. For starters it seems necessary to rely on our most basic ethical principles. We owe the public transparency, and I think we can easily report this story without providing pictures of the shooter. The public might want to know what the shooter looks like, but like Hanlin expressed, we might be giving the shooter what he was looking for. As far as transparency goes, I think we can be honest with the public without a picture.

We also need to discover whether there is a journalistic purpose to possibly publishing a photo. Our purpose should be to tell the public what they should know. In a story like this, We should report the details of the incident, but it might not be necessary to show a picture. The public has no need to know what an already dead shooter looks like. If the killer was on the lose it would obviously be a different story, but he is dead, and we should provide no fame to someone who committed a horrible act.

The shooter's name is a different story. A person's name is such a basic part of who they are? I agree with Hanlin that we should never look to publicize people that commit such an atrocity. I agree with news outlets strategy to use it as few times as possible

Another key point to remember to me is that the shooter was killed in the fight. Even if he was looking for  fame and notoriety, he isn't going to experience it dead.

Anyone who performs an act like this is obviously a little messed up in the head. Is it fair to say that every mass-shooter is looking for fame an notoriety? Every situation is different, and in some cases the shooter is obviously looking for a reaction. T.J. Lane was obviously looking for a rise out of people in his court hearings. Not all of these shooters do this for fame. Some simply feel like society has shunned them.

I will never approve of a violent act like this. The first step to solving any problem is admitting there is one. We can never look to give these violent acts credit, but to stop them from happening we need to talk about it a little.

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