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Stop Publishing the Names of Mass Murderers

Mass murderers, mentally-ill or not, are most often motivated by a desire for notoriety, to rack up a bigger body count than their predecessors. When media outlets focus on the killer, almost to the exclusion of the victims, they promote grotesque crimes and give the killer exactly what they want: significance.

The CSSA believes media outlets must stop publishing the names of mass murderers. Stop giving these fame-seeking killers the notoriety they seek.

We were pleasantly surprised to see Global News openly address this issue shortly after news of the shooting spree broke. 

“We don’t know yet who did it, only that he was a 29-year-old man. He is dead after fleeing the scene. But when police do release his name, should reporters broadcast it to the public? Will blanketing coverage with his name and his photo do more harm than good?”

That unanswered question came shortly before Global News (and every other major Canadian media outlet) identified Sunday night’s killer, opting for ratings instead of responsibility.

Their coverage, like everyone else’s, focused on the murderer, his long history of severe mental health issues and his family’s public statement of condolences. Reporting on the victims of this terrible tragedy were almost an afterthought.

Research shows publishing the names of mass murderers sparks a contagion effect. In the wake of each mass shooting, others occur shortly afterward due to the non-stop publicity given the killer. 

Jennifer Johnston and Andrew Joy presented their research into this contagion effect at the 2016 American Psychological Association convention.

“If the mass media and social media enthusiasts make a pact to no longer share, reproduce or retweet the names, faces, detailed histories or long-winded statements of killers, we could see a dramatic reduction in mass shootings in one to two years. Even conservatively, if the calculations of contagion modelers are correct, we should see at least a one-third reduction in shootings if the contagion is removed,” Johnston said.

Like all rights, the right of a free press comes with responsibilities. Where is the media’s responsibility in the wake of this latest mass shooting?  

It’s in the trash bin, right beside their honesty and integrity.

Where are the news stories celebrating the life of 18-year-old  Reese Fallon , mercilessly executed in the street as she tried to run away? Or the stories about the murdered 10-year-old girl? Or any of the 13 innocent people wounded in this horrific attack? 

The media prefers to sell story after story focused on the Toronto killer and, in doing so, ensures his place in the Mass Murderers’ Hall of Fame.

Promoting mass murderers and glorifying their heinous crimes for money is far more important than doing what is right – relegating these cowards to the garbage bin of obscurity.

Will the media stop glorifying mass murderers and their crimes? 

Not so long as it sells ad space and increases television ratings. The old media axiom of, “if it bleeds it leads,” was never truer than it is today.

Our hearts and prayers go out to the parents of the murdered 10-year-old girl, the parents of 18-year-old Reese Fallon and the 13 people wounded in this terrible attack.

We hope the press will listen to our plea and stop giving these killers the fame they seek. 

Only then will these horrific killings end.

 

Sources:

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