June 11th, 2014 | by AARON MESH News | Posted In: Schools, Cops and Courts

Why Name the Reynolds High School Shooter?

Recent shootings in Canada reveal a different approach by the news media.

     
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A day after a freshman at Reynolds High School shot and killed fellow student Emilio Hoffman in the gymnasium boy's locker room, Troutdale police began releasing new information about the school shooting.

Among the new details: Police named the 15-year-old shooter, and local media immediately followed suit.

That's a common practice in the wake of a school shooting. Yet as KGW's Cornelius Swart pointed out on Twitter last night, naming the killer is not mandatory—and not every media outlet is doing it.

Last week in New Brunswick, when a shooter killed three Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers, Canada's Sun News television network refused to release the killer's name.

The network made the case that naming the killer served no public interest, and increased the likelihood of copycat killings by giving the shooter notoriety.

That's exactly what happened after a mass killing at the University of California-Santa Barbara last month.

"With the unwitting cooperation of 24/7 media, he will become a national villain," Vox's Ezra Klein is quoted in this PolicyMic analysis. "And other sick young men will see him get the renown in death that they have have never been able to receive in life."

The PolicyMic piece raises a question that Oregon media should grapple with: whether publicizing the Reynolds High School killer does more harm than good.

One fact that is unquestionably in the public interest, however: The Reynolds freshman used an AR-15 style semiautomatic rifle.

That's the same kind of gun used in the Clackamas Town Center mall shooting in 2012, and at the school massacre in Newtown, Conn. a week later.

Two years ago, WW took a closer look at this gun, which surged in popularity after Newtown, and still has zero specific restrictions in Oregon.

UPDATE, 2:20 pm: Poynter's Al Tompkins has written a counter-argument on why naming shooters is a journalistic responsibility.

"When we understand the problem," Tompkins writes, "we avoid quick-fix solutions that don’t work. The surest solution to any problem begins with the free flow of reliable information. I generally default to 'report,' not 'withhold.'"

UPDATE, 5 pm: The Oregonian's managing editor Therese Bottomly says the paper will continue to report the shooter's name, but "editors here are cognizant of the issues relating to glorification." The splash page for Oregonlive.com currently displays a photo collage featuring the shooter and Emilio Hoffman, his victim.

 
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