Families and officials in Centennial, Colorado, the scene of the latest school shooting, have been taking a subdued approach to discussing the identity of the shooter, requesting that the media not name him or show his picture. I wholeheartedly agree. I have long maintained that extensive coverage of the shooters themselves is unnecessary and contributes to the problem.
Some members of the media bristle at this; it smacks of censorship, they claim. It prevents us from understanding why the shooting happened. But mass shootings are media phenomena; the media is part of the story. It’s not just a passive vessel for static facts. We can understand what led to a mass shooting without the exhaustive, titillating exploration of every detail of the killers’ lives. Moreover, this sort of sensational coverage of the shooter himself leads us to believe it’s an individual problem as opposed to systemic. I would argue it gets us farther from the truth.