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Using the Names of Mass Shooting Suspects

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by rmanfredi, Jul 25, 2012.

  1. rmanfredi

    rmanfredi Active Member

    Just got done reading today's LA Times and I saw an interesting A1 story about a campaign to convince media to not refer to the Colorado shooting suspect by his name. Victims and their families are trying to get media outlets and politicians to refer to him as "the alleged shooter" or other vague phrases rather than his actual name in order to curb his notoriety.


    So far the Colorado governor and President Obama have made speeches where they didn't mention the suspect's name (the Colorado governor went out of his way to say that he wouldn't be doing that). Some broadcasters have avoiding using his name as well (Anderson Cooper tweeted that his show would avoid it for now), while one of the parents of a victim is calling for a boycott of media outlets that name the suspect.

    While I understand the sentiment here, expecting a newspaper not to name the person who did this doesn't solve anything and is patently ridiculous. As someone said in the article, it's roughly like the "He Who Shall Not Be Named" from the Harry Potter books - just because we choose not to name a person who did something hideous doesn't mean that it didn't happen or that he's not an actual person (instead of a "suspect" or an "alleged shooter"). And I would suspect that anyone who has enough screws loose to shoot up a movie theater or college campus isn't going to think about this moving forward - they are delusional enough to think that any ban wouldn't impact them since their crime will be the biggest sensation ever.

    I'm curious to get other people's thoughts on this: is there any value in not using the suspect's name to avoid giving him what essentially is free publicity and perhaps aiding in his overall goal of trying to become famous/infamous?
  2. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    Politicians don't need to use his name to make their points.
  3. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    Emotions run so high at times like these. I understand why people feel that way but, as you mentioned, it doesn't solve anything.

    Big debate in these parts during the Virginia Tech stuff. The stuff the shooter sent NBC went public and it included that haunting picture of him. We ran it after considerable debate. Other papers did not. The editor of the Roanoke paper told a group at a seminar they felt they could not run the picture. Their boxes are all over the campus and the VT community didn't need to see that particular picture staring out at them all day. A great call and one I understand.

    But not using the name? Nope.
  4. deskslave

    deskslave Active Member

    Doesn't going out of one's way not to refer to him by name actually ADD to the notoriety?
  5. HanSenSE

    HanSenSE Well-Known Member

    Is the suspect an adult? Then by all means use the name. In fact, we should be putting out everything we learn about suspects in this case. Otherwise, we fall into the same sort of coverup as Penn State, the Catholic church and USA Swimming [/crossthreads]. And before you hit reply, yes, a bit extreme, but sorry, parental units, it's YOUR job to protect your children from stuff like this, not mine.
  6. Spartan Squad

    Spartan Squad Well-Known Member

    If we are supposed to be the objective tellers of important events, we have to tell all the information and not censor it. Certainly, we can sympathize with the families and the pain and anger they are going through, but if we leave out the name, we are no longer being the objective scribes of history.
  7. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    Use his name. Then execute him.
  8. BillyT

    BillyT Active Member

    I don't understand this argument.

    It goes against basic journalistic precepts. You need the facts in the story. His name is a fact.
  9. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    Same argument I hear people make about victims' names. The information is out there and pretty easy to find, if anyone cares. Guy could use a fictious name for all I care; I don't know him from Adam.

    I can't see any compelling reason to go out of the way NOT to use his name unless you truly believe the name is fictious.
  10. jackfinarelli

    jackfinarelli Well-Known Member

    Problem solved in six words. Amen to that.
  11. Peytons place

    Peytons place Member

    I think the media has to use his name for obvious reasons, but I understand where the victims' families are coming from, especially given where it happened. Most people outside of Colorado probably don't remember any names from Columbine other than Eric Harris and Dylan Kleybold, so I can see these families not wanting to see that happen in this case.
  12. Herbert Anchovy

    Herbert Anchovy Active Member


    The objection seems to be the "Warholian" use of the creep's courtroom photos.

    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 15, 2014
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