The national media has to atone for the journalistic sins of Newtown, Connecticut, and I believe I have the perfect path to redemption. The media must pledge not to idolize maniacs anymore.
The media descended on the small town of Newtown like a dumb, clumsy giant and proceeded to make a horrible situation worse.
As reporters scurried around the outskirts of Sandy Hook Elementary looking for any competitive advantage, they gathered a bushel full of rumors, lies and half-truths that they would then feed to a national audience as fact.
Within hours of the shooting, the media collectively told a story that turned out to be completely and utterly false. They identified the shooter as his brother. They said he was upset about a girlfriend who broke up with him. They reported on a second shooter. They had his mother working as a kindergarten teacher who died in her classroom. And they reported that someone at the school recognized the shooter and let him in.
All of the above turned out not to be true. All of the above was regurgitated by reporter after reporter without attribution. It was truly embarrassing.
Once upon a time, there was a news adage that “It’s better to be right than first.” The cutthroat competitive nature of 24-hour cable news and the anything-goes reporting on the Internet has made the opposite true.
But I think I have a way to help restore the trust lost in what passes for journalism nowadays. In the next mass shooting, and God knows there will be another, don’t show the picture of the shooter or use his name. Instead of making him immortal, make him forgotten.
A psychological profile is starting to form as data is collected from the ghosts of shooting sprees past. They are all highly intelligent, young white men who feel society hasn’t recognized their talents. The shootings are their way of finally getting noticed. So let’s take away that incentive.
It is possible. News organizations already have made a collective choice to withhold the names and pictures of rape victims and juvenile offenders. Withholding the names and faces of cowards that shoot the innocent does a much greater good.
This is a plea to the news managers across America to stop rewarding the deranged for historic acts of evil. Show some restraint and do what’s right instead of what sells. I believe that kind of bold and noble gesture will be rewarded by news consumers with increased ratings and revenue. And if you’re one of those news consumers who agrees with me, sign this petition to the media to “Stop making the maniacs who carry out shooting sprees famous.”