When Tom Teves, the father of one of the shooting victims in Aurora, Colo., suggested that news media refrain from mentioning gunman James Holmes’ name — rather than confer the fame and notoriety Teves believes Holmes was seeking — it probably resonated with many citizens. The same rationale was used in the Inland Northwest years ago when some readers protested that publicizing the activities of white separatists in Eastern Washington and North Idaho was playing into their hands. Professional journalists should ignore that kind of pressure and stick to the fundamental purpose of reporting newsworthy events accurately and without attempting to encourage or discourage a desired outcome beyond informing the public. Disappointingly, TV reporter Anderson Cooper apparently responded with a partial acquiescence, consciously keeping mentions of Holmes by name to a minimum. My heart goes out to all the victims and their loved ones, but bedrock journalism’s paramount duty is to the public, not to individuals in the news.
Good points, Doug. Thanks for commenting here. Are you on Facebook? If so, go to the Washington News Council page and add a comment there. We’re trying to make that our main discussion site, so we don’t get anonymous comments and avoid spam. And feel free to post other media-ethics topics and questions for debate. The more we get people talking about issues like this, the better.