Local News

Why we name the shooter

SPOKANE, Wash. - In the wake of a deadly school shooting in our community this week, we wanted to take a moment to answer a question many of you have: why do we name the shooter?
 
In recent years, there have been articles and experts saying mass shooters names and pictures should not be shared, as not to feed into the quest for attention that other potential shooters might crave. Here's one such campaign.
 
We understand those concerns. We respectfully disagree.
 
We don't make these decisions lightly. As a newsroom, we have conversations every day about how to handle tough decisions like this. We looked today to guidance from the Poynter Institute, a world-renowned ethics and training center for journalists.
 
In an article written in 2015 by Poynter Vice President and former Spokesman-Review journalist Kelly McBride, she lays out when and why the media is justified and responsible for naming mass shooters. Her most important point: use the name, but use it judiciously.
 
Here are reasons why, according to McBride, whose entire article is here: https://www.poynter.org/news/why-its-important-name-shooter.
 
-When you name an individual, you give people important context for the backstory. People with prior contact with the shooter may come forward with more information.
 
-Knowing who was behind the gun allows us to identify trends. "Creating a record of individual cases allows us to understand the data in the aggregate," McBride writes. "Because we have the data, we know that most mass acts of violence have been committed by young white males."
 
-Naming the shooter prevents misinformation. It sets the record straight.
 
-When you don't name the shooter, it becomes impossible to research other acts of violence he or she may have committed or surface records that document where his or her weapons came from.
 
"Instead of vowing to avoid the name of the shooter, journalists would be better off promising to use the name responsibly, to tell the stories of the victims completely and to refrain from publishing poorly-sourced information that has a higher likelihood of being wrong," McBride writes.
 
McBride's advice - and, our newsroom guideline today - is to be judicious about how we cover the shooter. We have no plans to show, unedited, the YouTube videos he made depicting acts of violence. We won't include every graphic detail in our report. We'll spend more time in our newscasts covering the heroes that stopped the shooting and the young people who went to school yesterday, never expecting they'd be the victims of a classmate's bullet.
 
We will not glorify these acts or give a platform. But, we will give the facts of the story.
 
These are not easy decisions for us. The last thing we want to do is create more violence in this community; we live here, too. We grieve alongside the families and we drop off our children at school knowing the world is different than it was yesterday.
 
As always, we welcome your feedback.


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