Media Mashup: October 6, 2015

The victims at an Oregon community college are far more important than the killer.
The victims at an Oregon community college are far more important than the killer.

For the rest of my life, I will search my name, Chris Harper, on Google and find a mass killer. That will be true for my nephew and a talented football player from the University of Oregon.

Journalists need to make a decision not to give notoriety to mass killers. I have said this since the massacre in 1999 at Columbine High School in Colorado. That mass murder happened only a few miles from where I grew up.

The media need to understand that mass killers feed on the crimes that have occurred. The killers see how the media have provided fame to those who should have been ignored.

It is usual that news organizations identify those who have been charged with crimes. That is a good notion. Also, it is important to report when those individuals are found guilty or innocent.

The debate, however, in the case of mass murderers should not be about why they committed these crimes. It should not be about whether gun laws are too lenient.

It should be about denying these evil individuals any notice. Write them off. Don’t name them. Don’t try to figure out what was wrong with them. Ignore them.

I realize it far less important than the lives the mass murderer took in Oregon, but my nephew and I have to live with the issue of a mass murderer who is more important than we are because we share most of his name. More important, he should not have the media’s attention.

The media don’t name rape victims. That is a good choice. But the media should not name mass murderers. That only feeds their ego and that of others who want to follow in their evil path.

Christopher Harper is a longtime journalist, who reported in Europe and the Middle East. He teaches media law and international journalism. Send suggestions and tips to charper@temple.edu.

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