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Huckleberries Online

Important to name rampage perps

Public officials and advocates for victims often ask journalists to refrain from naming the individual behind a heinous act. This is a bad idea and here’s why:

  • When you name an individual and tell his story, you give people important context for the backstory. If we had not named Seung-Hui Cho as the Virginia Tech assailant, his teachers might not have come forward to report they had voiced concerns about his mental health in the past.
  • 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. 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. Remember when journalists named Ryan Lanza as the person responsible for the Sandy Hook shooting when it was really his brother Adam Lanza? Naming an individual sets the record straight. More here.

Question: Agree/disagree?

D.F. Oliveria
D.F. (Dave) Oliveria joined The Spokesman-Review in 1984. He currently is a columnist and compiles the Huckleberries Online blog and writes about North Idaho in his Huckleberries column.

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