For at least a couple of years, I’ve been aware of the push by victim advocates to discourage mass shooters by denying them news coverage that could inspire copycats.
I see merit in the idea, not least because the evidence is clear that rampage shooters often seek a twisted sort of fame with their crimes, and often base their fantasies on the wall-to-wall news coverage bestowed on other shooters.
But it also troubles me. It’s one of those issues, like the tension over sealing criminal records to protect the reputation of people who have redeemed themselves after a criminal conviction, that puts tension between journalistic principles and criminal justice reforms.
So, during my early morning news grazing last November, after the church shootings in Texas, I touched on that tension with this tweet:
All due respect to #NoNotoriety movement, but this story shows how strong, independent #journalism can shed light on the signs we all should watch for potential shooters. No undue notoriety, yes, but no to anonymity. https://t.co/U6pgw9bRlz
— Mark Obbie (@MarkObbie) November 12, 2017
When Caren Teves, the co-founder of NoNotoriety.com, responded constructively with a link to the details of what she and her husband actually have in mind, I decided that I needed to learn — and listen — more. Hence, this Q&A, newly published at The Crime Report, with Caren and Tom Teves. They told me about the campaign they launched because of their frustration with journalists following their son’s death in the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shootings in 2012 and answered my questions about whether it leaves room for necessary reporting on the causes of such shootings.
I still have doubts and concerns about how the Teves’ ideas would play out in practical terms. And I wish that they could see the public interest motive more in journalism, rather than ascribing every action to profit. But I respect the work they do to heighten my craft’s sense of responsibility to victims and to violence prevention. I honor their mission to turn their loss into something positive. And, as with all victims, we owe it to them to listen when they use their experience to try to teach the rest of us a better way.