Do journalists unwittingly enable the kind of gunmen who wrecked havoc in Omaha, at Virginia Tech, and elsewhere?
Jon Friedman: I want the media to stop the practice of identifying crazed fame-seekers, such as the gunman who killed eight people Wednesday in an Omaha mall before taking his own life. Don’t release their names or photos.
By taking such a bold step, television, print and Web executives could help society and maybe even save lives. Media do-gooders often point to the positive ways in which they help people to live better lives. Now, those in charge can accomplish something truly noteworthy by doing nothing at all, and it wouldn’t cost a dime.
Like everyone else, I winced when I heard that yet another troubled young man had gunned down innocent bystanders. This time, it happened in Omaha, but the script didn’t seem all that different from the tragedies at Virginia Tech and Columbine.
I’ll leave it to sociologists and psychiatrists to try to make sense of it. But I believe that media executives can help to minimize the possibilities of future incidents if they ceased to provide such high-profile publicity to these deranged gunmen.
The “gunman” in the Omaha episode was actually a teenager who desperately wanted the kind of publicity that the 24/7 media establishment could give him. He reportedly left behind a note proclaiming, “Now I’ll be famous.”… It doesn’t have to be this way, though. What if the media covered all the nuances of the story but ceased naming the vicious and disturbed murderers who kill for the kicks of getting their names on the evening news and on the front pages of newspapers, magazines and Web sites?