Straight Talk
EDITORIAL - Sun News Network will not use New Brunswick killer's name

RCMP in Moncton, New Brunswick on June 5, 2014

Credits: MAXIME DELAND/QMI AGENCY

SUN NEWS NETWORK

Wednesday, three RCMP officers were senselessly murdered and two left in critical condition following a shooting in Moncton, New Brunswick.

As the killer is now in custody, the community has turned to mourning the loss of the officers and the families that have been torn apart.

The media, including Sun News Network, has covered this story closely. And now we have made a decision: Sun News Network will not report the name of the killer. We will not show his photo.

When it comes to mass murderers, too often, it is attention and infamy they crave. Luckily, shootings of this nature are rare in Canada.

And in the US, they account for less than one per cent of all gun-related deaths. Far more people have been killed in the bad neighbourhoods of Chicago than were killed in all the mass shootings combined. But these rare incidents are never forgotten. And with the rise of social media, they've become a spectacle.

It's easy to report on the life of the killer, to scour his deranged Facebook page, to speculate about motive, but doing so could actually encourage the perception that his heinous acts are somehow justified.

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Following the deadly Newtown, Connecticut shooting in December 2012 that left 26 dead, including 20 children, it was discovered that the perpetrator kept a "score sheet" of previous mass shootings.

Did he hope his name would be placed at the top of the list?

This bizarre act is not uncommon. In fact, experts have found a clear path of influence running through some of the most infamous shooters - from Columbine, to Virginia Tech to the, Colorado Theatre - including explicit reference to previous killing sprees and calls to empower future "celebrities".

Can you see the pattern? The idea is that mass shootings are contagious. Back in 1999, four public health researchers published a famous study titled "Media and Mass Homicides" in the Archives of Suicide Research.

They looked at a number of mass murders in Australia, New Zealand, and Britain and they discovered mass homicides occurred in clusters - not randomly.

Now, with wall-to-wall media coverage of these events, are we feeding future monsters? Are we putting ideas in their heads? When we make the killer's name and face famous, are we setting the stage for future mass killings?

In the media, it's a dilemma. We feel an obligation to tell the public what is going on. Our job is to inform. And like the old saying goes, "if it bleeds, it leads."

Networks care about ratings. But with every mass shooting, we face the inevitable cry of ANOTHER mass shooting?!?

In the days and weeks to come, there'll no doubt be a great deal of debate on how we stop the "next Moncton."

Mental illness, gun control, warning signs, will all come up. These are legitimate points of discussion. But for us in the press - and for society at large - let's take an honest look in the mirror to see if our hyper-interest might be contributing to this very disturbing phenomenon.

We will not help give this killer his blaze of glory.

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