Friday, December 07, 2007

The media and mass murderers

Another day, another Bush administration truth-telling scandal. Only a few days after the previous one. And not long after the one before that.

But I need to take a break from blogging about Bush scandals, for the sake of my mental health.

A few days ago, a 19-year old opened fire at a mall in Omaha, Nebraska and killed eight people before making himself the ninth victim.

A woman who took him in after he left home said he left a note saying he was sorry for everything and did not want to be a burden to anybody.

He is said to have suffered from depression. I'm sorry for that but let's keep things in perspective. He's become quite a burden to and probably caused quite a bit of depression in the families of the eight people he murdered.

But what really interests me is the media reaction to such shootings. Often in these cases, a shooter leaves a note saying that he wants to me famous or to be remembered or to make his mark (and it's almost always a he).

Nearly every media outlet I could find has shown a picture of the killer. Why are they obliging the last request of a mass murderer? Does seeing his picture add any news value at all? Do readers and viewers gain any more understanding of the story by seeing the guy's face? If they're going to show anyone's picture, shouldn't it be of victims?

In sporting events, every so often, some idiot will run on to the field to make a spectacle of himself. Television networks have made a habit of having announcers explain why there's a delay in the action but NOT showing the idiot in question because they don't want to give him his 15 minutes of fame and encourage future idiots to do the same.

If the media rightly refuse to glorify streakers and people who are nuisances at sporting events, why don't they apply the same standard to mass murderers?

6 comments:

Mark said...

Remember all the hooplah over the airing of the VTech killer's videotape? We keep encouraging this stuff. It's about ratings. I wonder if the European media would be any different.

Brian said...

Well mass shootings like this aren't nearly as common in Europe (western at least) so there's not really the body of evidence to make a conclusion.

Scoop said...

You're talking sports versus "real" news....one word...Sensationalism

But I agree with you.

Brian said...

Scoop: I know there's a difference between sports and real news. The reason I mention it is because if the media refuses to give glory to mere putzes, then why should there be any doubt about denying it to mass murderers?

A Social Skidmark said...

Yeah I agree. Stop showing the pics of the killer. Take away his identy.
Kier

Brian said...

I posed this question to WAMC's The Media Project and the newspaper members of the panel adroitly danced around the question.