Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The social media era & the effect on mass shooting coverage

Jordan Klimack

The social media era has changed journalism. The effects have been both beneficial and detrimental to the field of journalism. For example, the average person has access to news and information at the tap of a finger. Likewise, journalists have the ability to reach a larger audience via social media. In turn, this has created a competitive environment in the field of journalism that is unprecedented.

Social Media has allowed news to be reported across multiple platforms
Image via esoftload.info
The field of journalism will never be the same. Right now, personal ethics codes are of the utmost importance. News coverage of events such as mass shootings or tragic deaths has become an arms race--to see who can report information the quickest. Often times, this has led to journalists foregoing the proper steps to publishing their work. This involves publishing news or stories without the proper guidance of an editor. In turn, this has led to errors of fact and grammatical errors that have damaged the perception of journalists, across a country that always has an appetite for a good news story. 

In the case of mass shootings such as the Sandy Hook incident, or the recent Las Vegas shooting, which claimed the lives of over 50 Americans, journalists need to respect the privacy and mourning of not only the families of victims but the community, as well. Personal ethics codes come into play in this situation, as well. The journalist needs to consider what is ethically and morally correct, in dealing with the families of victims of a shooting spree. As noted before, social media has propelled journalists to report information as quickly as possible; this also involves the need for sourcing, in a timely manner. However, most families are not ready to talk about the incident just days or hours after tragedy has changed their lives forever. Journalists need to realize the importance of a good and credible source. Likewise, your best story may not be the quickest story reported, but it may be the most impactful. A sit down with a parent of a victim weeks after tragedy struck carries a lot more weight than a jaded quote that was obtained through an unethical-invasion of privacy just hours after the tragedy. Reporting of tragic shootings is not a game. Lives were lost and families are in mourning. It is time ethical journalism over-takes the need to be the first to report a story. 

Families in mourning are entitled to privacy, following the tragedy of a death
Image via dailymail.co.uk
Furthermore, social media such as Facebook and twitter are flooded with images that can represent or misrepresent a certain instance. Often times, a twitter user can scroll through his timeline and be presented with image after image, without clicking on a story. This has become an issue with the reporting of mass shootings. In the United States of America, news media will present images of an armed-shooter to provide context and reasoning to why a tragedy has taken place. This has enabled shooters such as Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter, whose image has been pasted all over social media and in the back of the mind of American citizens across the country. It has provided a fifteen-minutes of fame mind set for those contemplating a mass killing. The media needs to understand it's role in these attacks. 

Social media has perpetuated mass shootings across the world. Journalists and members of the media need to understand their role in these attacks --it must stop once and for all.

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