Should news media withhold the names of the shooters?


Remember those clowns running naked onto the field in the middle of televised sporting events? Pretty quick the networks figured it out and stopped showing the clowns, and the clowns soon realized they weren’t going to get the attention they were seeking (except from stadium security and local police).

The problem went away.

Would the same approach work with shooters of mass murders?

Before Newtown, Aurora, Clackamas, and Columbine, there was talk of passing laws prohibiting news media from publishing the names of rampage shooters. I doubt such a  law could survive a court challenge, but feasibly the news media could do it voluntarily, similar to the coverage of suicides. Most news outlets withhold names of people who take their own lives so as not to encourage other troubled individuals to end it all in time for the six o’ clock news.

Should broadcast, print, and the Internet withhold names and mug shots of shooters? Would that send a message to those seeking some perverted moment in the limelight?

Before you decide, keep in mind that your curiosity would never be satisfied. You’d never  find out anything about the shooter: name, age, hometown, or motive. You’d never see a face. The shooter would essentially vanish.

One more thing to think about. Would you be comfortable with the news media and law enforcement deciding what information you have a right to know and what should be kept confidential?

Cast your ballot in the poll and add your comments below. I’ll post results.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Should news media withhold the names of the shooters?

  1. Kevin, I’m torn on this. My curiosity shouldn’t factor into it, but what if I knew the shooter and could contribute something to help? (Probably not, but…) What if his name was withheld ‘pending notification of next of kin’ for a few days? And a decision made at that time? If the motive was purely for the 15 minutes of fame – ignore him. However, if the shooter had mental problems that were being ignored, well, then that aspect should be reported. I also think the wishes of the shooter’s family should be taken into account. It’s a sticky subject, and I guess I vote Yes and No, because it’s more gray than black or white.

  2. Judy

    I vote no, and your penultimate paragraph states my reason exactly. There may be some valid argument somewhere in favor of censorship of the news, whether or not self-imposed, but this, imo, isn’t it. That said, I wonder how many viewers the t.v. sporting events have lost.

  3. john

    I think the lae makers have it wrong. I feel they need to ban the army guns, unless you are an active service personal. I dont think baning the release of the name of the shooter will fix the issue. More importantly the issue is finding the A.R. Guns and taking each one out of the hands of civilins. If that means having a unanouced home and proprty search ans seazure of any wepon of that kind. I know here in Yakima the most popular gun I have noticed being used to fight the police. Is the A.K.47 A.R. So to put it simple from a supporter of the right to bear arms. BAN ALL MILLITARY WEPOND FOR STREET USE.

    • Tina

      Why should they be allowed to remain anonymous? Everyone needs to know what a horrid thing they have done. They don’t deserve the protection of autonimity. The families who’s lives have been shattered… they are the ones that deserve this protection. They deserve to be allowed to mourn in peace.

    • Tina

      I completely agree with you on this.

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