OPINION: Endless news coverage aids killer’s anti-hero fantasy
The insane media coverage of the Aurora, CO shooting, is exactly what the killer wants. How do we know when too much is too much; where do we draw the line?
The journalistic frenzy over the Aurora, CO theater shooting is worrying.
I know, with every fiber in my body, that this unforgivable act is entirely his fault. That crazed, cold killer assumed sole responsibility when he decided to gun down moviegoers during a premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises.” Yet, I can’t help but mull over the news media’s role in all this, and the potential long-term effects of this frenzied coverage.
Naturally, every news outlet is scrambling to cover this story. Journalists put the meaty details into their stories, such as the total body count, the killer’s name and picture, and gruesome photos of the aftermath. It’s how journalism works.
Much of the coverage goes beyond the standard crime story format, a format of cut-and-dry facts sprinkled with choice quotes. A shooting as devastating as this deserves to have every facet pored over in order to properly navigate the grievous losses and fragility of life.
But giving this tragic episode such over-encompassing, around-the-clock coverage inadvertently paints the shooter as a hero for the maladjusted. A pariah for the damned, glorified by all the negative attention surrounding him. In his twisted fiction, he is the anti-hero, and the media is his relentless persecutor.
Through journalists and news media, the killer has the means to show off his bloody handiwork. His kill count is the lede to countless articles. His name, picture, and even details about his “shy but intelligent” personality are plastered on papers, splashed on websites and beamed in newscasts. He has forced terror deep into our hearts.
In his mind, he wins.
We cannot aid this man in constructing his anti-hero narrative fantasy. But even without intending to, we end up doing just that. We complete the killer’s sick fiction by enabling his violent episode to reverberate throughout the airwaves constantly, drowning out other news. We give him the building blocks to construct his anti-hero origin story.
We obviously can’t just stop the presses and cease talking about the shooting. The horrors in Aurora, CO that day may be unspeakable, but the ramifications absolutely must be discussed. Legitimate debates can be had about public safety and gun control, among the myriad of hot-button issues.
But where do we stop with this media frenzy? As journalists, how much of this shooting should we cover, and when should start to pull back? How can we write stories that give the full picture of the scenario without appeasing the shooter’s perverted lust for negative attention? We may never know those answers; we may never know where to draw that line, and that’s the scariest part.