In the wake of the tragic loss of life at Umpqua Community College the debate has stirred up again whether or not naming the killers is giving them the fame that they craved. As I’ve said in a previous blog post I believe that the killers should be named so they don’t become more legend than statistic. However there is something that most media outlets use usually on the heels of such a crime that does more damage than naming the killers and that’s the ‘timeline’.
It never fails after a mass shooting like this. Just about every known part of the media will publish the list of the past mass shootings in this country, usually using Columbine as a starting point.
Here’s an example of some of the headlines I received in the days after the tragedy in Roseburg, Oregon.
“Recent history of mass shootings in the United States”
“Tragic List: The Deadliest Mass Shootings in US History”
“The worst school shootings in American history”
“142 school shootings since Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Conn” (Trench’s note: That stat is grossly overblown, I posted about this last year when the number was claimed to be 74)
“In the wake of Oregon massacre, here are 11 of the bloodiest school shootings since Columbine”
“Major school shootings in US since 1999”
“Factbox: Major shootings in the United States”
“5 Deadliest Mass School Shootings in Oregon”
“A look at the history of high-profile shootings in the Pacific Northwest”
“Deadliest shootings on or near U.S. college campuses”
“Timeline: Deadliest school shootings since Columbine”
“A look at major school shootings that have erupted in the US over the past decade”
“A look at deadliest shootings on or near US college campuses”
And so on.
These timelines are not only unnecessary but just lazy journalism. They’re used in out post Buzzfeed society to garner pageviews and anyone with a half a brain already knows that there is a crisis of violence in our country unmatched by any other Western society. We don’t need a constant reminder of every singe tragedy and every single loser who perpetrated it. When you do that it’s my opinion that the killers are then being glorified by posting these ‘hall of fame’ lists.
The only place I found that used the timeline concept wisely was the Washington Post who posted a list of the victims who should be remembered rather than the monsters who killed them.