This year will seemingly set new records for mass shootings in the United States. The media blames the National Rifle Association, lack of mental health availability, gun manufacturers, the Republican Party, state and federal laws, racism and law enforcement.
It is about time journalists include themselves in the blame game. The Society for Professional Journalists published a code of ethics 10 years ago.
One of the tenets of this code is to “minimize harm.” More often than not, in an attempt to seek readers and viewers, the media runs endless loop summaries about mass shootings with continuous coverage to ensure good ratings. It is naïve to believe that this constant type of coverage doesn’t play into the motivations of many shooters seeking “15 minutes of fame.”
Many journalists will respond that they are only reporting the facts. But they should also willingly own that they have played a large part in exacerbating the problem. However paradoxical, the adage “don’t shoot the messenger” is a typical response to the accusation. Media is a potent force that shapes societal outcomes.
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It is time for them to acknowledge they are frequently complicit in gun violence. It is time to revisit their effort to “minimize harm.”
Al Rickey, Madison