WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Naming the Killer in Mass Shootings

Oct 13, 2015

Recent mass shootings in the U.S. led some journalists to declare they will not report the shooter's name in such cases.  There are concerns that naming a shooter could turn him/her into a celebrity and could inspire copycats.

The Shop Talk panelists disagree with the policy.

Jonathan Ahl called it a publicity stunt; a demonstration of self-righteousness.  He said someone’s name and background are newsworthy and important elements of a story.

Ahl said a policy of not naming shooters is a poor substitute for a thorough investigation into why a mass shooting happened and what might be done to prevent one from happening again.

Jasmine Crighton said the shooter’s name is a fundamental part of the story.  She said stories don’t have to focus entirely on the shooter, but journalists should look into why a person committed such an act.

Rich Egger said the name of the shooter was an essential part of the story when two journalists were shot to death during a television broadcast in Roanoke, VA.  They were killed by a former co-worker, who it turns out had a history of clashing with co-workers.