WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Preparing Journalism Students to Cover Mass Shootings

Apr 26, 2016

The Poynter Institute reports that some journalism educators in Oregon want to prepare students to cover mass shootings. 

The article by Kristen Hare notes that as mass shootings continue to make news, some of those educators believed they needed to do something.  They considered it their responsibility as journalism educators and media scholars to look at how gun violence and how mass shootings are being covered in the media.

Shop Talk panelist Jonathan Ahl thinks it’s a bad idea. He said it comes across as advocacy regarding gun issues. He said it seems like an oddly specific thing to single out.

Ahl said that rather than placing an emphasis on mass shootings, educators should teach students to deal with any type of story in which there is a loss of life and/or a threat to public safety.

Panelist Jasmine Crighton, who teaches in WIU’s Department of Broadcasting & Journalism, said she talks to students about covering tragedies in general because mass shootings are not the only traumatic events reported on by journalists.

Crighton said the article pointed out the lack of follow up that often accompanies such stories. But she said it’s up to management to decide whether reporters work on such stories.

Panelist Rich Egger said one of Crighton’s student journalists got first-hand experience of what it’s like to report on a tragedy when he covered a car crash that killed three people southwest of Macomb in the Fall of 2014.  Even though the coverage was accurate and respectful, the victims’ families and friends were openly hostile toward the reporter on social media because they did not want details released.