Crikey Classic

Oct 6, 2017

Does media coverage of mass shootings lead to yet more mass shootings?

By raking over every detail of a mass shooter's life, are we telling any loner with a grudge and a yearning for recognition that this is an option?

Charlie Lewis — Journalist

Charlie Lewis


Mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada..

We knew we’d need this one again. In the US, the unthinkable — the wanton slaughter of innocent people, often children — is so commonplace, so mundane. The events in Florida this week (the eighth school shooting in American this year) are only particularly newsworthy for higher than average numbers.  Already, the killer has been named, and a monstrous backstory constructed. The following piece, originally published during the aftermath of the Las Vegas massacre in October last year, looks at the grotesque consequences of such reporting.

“A man who was known by no one, is now known by everyone. His face splashed across every screen, his name across the lips of every person on the planet, all in the course of one day.”

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20 thoughts on “Does media coverage of mass shootings lead to yet more mass shootings?

  1. leon knight

    I reckon Crikey is inflaming local angst by reporting on that rag The Australian…..

  2. Wayne Cusick

    Couldn’t the same thing be said about the coverage of terrorism?

    That by reporting the terrorist act far and wide its effects are more substantial.

    1. 124C4U

      Have to agree with you WC, of course it does.
      As is true for the coverage of mass shootings it not only encourages it gives tips on the best methods. Facts for homicidal nutters 101. Concerts and sporting events provide a large target mass and get up high so better coverage is given of the target mass. Additionally it is harder for anyone to get at you. See example No. xxxx in Los Vegas.
      Not allowing the perpetrator their 15 hours of fame would have to reduce the number of incidents.
      However don’t hope for anything from our Pollies, this sort of event allows them to stir up fear and introduce more restrictions on our liberties and way of life, giving even greater protection to themselves and their sponsors.
      BTW. This article is very similar to the one on “The Drum” last night.

  3. Richard

    With you all the way. The celebration of these people who have no apparent motive gives them oxygen and encourages others. Not only are details of “how to commit mass murder” lovingly reported, this also includes various tricks that most people would not think of.
    Violence porn, for sure.

  4. Steve

    Answer, “Yes”, sadly Right now someone in America will be thinking ‘I can beat 59’ and ‘I can go out in a blaze of glory’ and ‘Everyone will remember me THEN’. I don’t want or need to know the SLIGHTEST detail of their personal lives, ‘motivations’, manifestos, spurious ‘mental illnesses’ or whatever. Leave them to anonymity and oblivion and maybe remember more about their victims. Great piece. Thanks

  5. zut alors

    The Mandalay Bay killing spree has provided a feeding frenzy for the media. But why have Oz media outlets allowed it to dominate almost every bulletin since Tuesday morning? Evil acts are being perpetrated on the innocent in countries such as Syria, Myanmar etc but, instead, our focus is on a gun porn event.

    Meantime, who is putting the blow torch to the Qld & federal governments re the scandalous Adani scam? It has been bypassed as topical news for yet another in the series of relentless US shootings.

    I would prefer reporting on mass shootings to be minimal.

    1. Barbara Haan

      I agree. Don’t name the shooter and give him minimal airtime. The endless breathless reporting of this atrocity is completely unnecessary. As you point out, it is only one of many atrocities committed worldwide daily. Why, indeed, has the Adani scandal been allowed to fade into the background?

  6. MJM

    One point, concerning the copy cat nature of these killings, and made by Glynn Greensmith on The Drum on Wednesday is that of someone already mentally unstable being pushed over the edge by the enormous coverage. The example he gave was of the Dunblane shooting of 16 children and a teacher in March 1996 receiving maximum press coverage and being followed in April 1996 by the Port Arthur shootings.

  7. Always Carefree

    One thing about these shooting massacres in the US. No one messes with the weird kid in high school anymore.

    1. Glenn Freeman

      That’s a pretty dopey comment to make.

  8. old greybearded one

    I absolutely agree. It is sickening as a fairly early riser, to have an outbreak of mass murder, terrorism or Trump. There is abundant evidence that the media coverage does feed such people and in our increasingly narcissistic world that is serious. Back in the 80s I remember a newspaper called El Especdador in Bogota Colombia. It had its editor shot, vendors assassinated and the workplace creche bombed (luckily the teacher had taken the kids for a walk). They blasted the drug lords. The paper refused to over report (that was what so enraged the Escobar cartel et. al.). They would say low class murderer arrested, or the equivalent of drug dealing scum etc. for the kingpins. Never did they sensationalise them. The media everywhere have made heroes of the criminals and TV series about them do not help. How much better if headlines said “Violent coward attacks woman.” I do not think we can avoid basic reporting of serious events though.

  9. Duncan Gilbey

    Luckily only a few people read the Australian.

  10. AR

    A good start improve reporting is change the nomenclature – Bishop & Abbott tried to always use daesh which is an Arabic pun for shit/chaos as well as an acronym.
    Cease referring to”lone wolf” and use “mad dog” – especially hurtful to jihadis – or ‘rabid rat’ as when ‘king hit’ becoming coward punch.
    What ‘reason’ could any of these killers have that would be worth a pinch of the proverbial?
    It behooves a creature of the meeja like Crikey to realise that, while newspapers have been around for a couple of centuries, schlock/horror tales of illiterate troubadours were replaced by yellow journalism when the physical means became cheap enough – penny papers didn’t debate the finer things in life but wallowed in the muck & mire as does TV and that Intertube thangy today.
    The appetite for ugliness is unslakeable and those most base will always feed it.

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