Can we stop calling everything a school shooting?

This past week, a teacher shot himself at a high school in Lithia Springs, Georgia. It is not known if this was an accident or self-inflicted, however, the teacher is reportedly in stable condition. As tragic as this is, a number of news outlets referred to the incident as a ‘school shooting’.
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Instead of not naming the killers this is what we shouldn’t do

Instead of not naming the killers this is what we shouldn't do

For a few years now there’s been a movement among some who believe that the names of killers like Omar Mateen shouldn’t be made public. They believe that this gives them the notoriety they wanted. In the past I have posted why I disagree with this practice. Long story short, we shouldn’t forget history’s villains and if we let the media give them names, like Son of Sam or the Zodiac Killer, that gives them even more notoriety than they were looking for. Instead, what we should be doing is not over-reporting the story.

For example, it’s no secret that Mateen pledged his allegiance to ISIS right before the shooting and ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack even though it wasn’t organized or ordered by them. ISIS thrives on having their name in Western media, lone wolf attacks like Orlando should not be attributed to ISIS as it just gives them free publicity and propaganda which in turn could influence more ISIS inspired lone wolf attacks like the Pulse nightclub shooting.

The other worrisome practice I see being carried out by the press is the reporting of every ancillary detail and minutia about the attack. Do we really need to know that Mateen texted his wife during the attack and also checked Facebook to see if the attack was trending yet? No, we don’t. In my opinion those are what I like to call rubbernecking details, items the news reports on solely to get pageviews and clicks. Journalism used to operate under such tenets of whether there was a need for the public to know certain details of a story, emphasis on the word ‘need’. Now most major media outlets are more concerned with SEO keywords than information that is in the public’s best interest. In my opinion this is just another practice that gives the killers the notoriety that they were looking for since their every move during the incident is dissected like they were some Hollywood celebrity ordering lunch at a small town diner.

I’m not holding my breath on any of these changes to take effect anytime soon since news publishing is the industry that coined the callous phrase ‘if it bleeds it leads’.

Does the media glorify killers with history?

guntimeline

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.