Why the media should not put the Tucson killer’s picture on the front page

Because, as Jack Shafer explains on Slate, the killer was seeking publicity. And such publicity encourages copycats, as I detailed in Rocky Mountain News columns in December and April 2007. Regarding copycats, Clayton Cramer’s award-winning “Ethical Problems of Mass Murder Coverage in the Mass Media,” Journal of Mass Media Ethics 9:1 [Winter, 1993-94] 26-42 is well worth reading.

There was some value in reporting the killer’s name initially, in part so that people who knew him could come forward and provide information. At this point, however, repeating the name adds nothing useful. In general, a publicity-seeking murderer’s name should be mentioned only if clearly necessary (for example, in an encyclopedia entury, or in a newspaper report about judicial proceedings), and never otherwise. Let his name sink like a stone to the bottom of the ocean. Let us remember instead the names of the vicitms and the heroes.

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