OPINION

Opinion: Should media reduce their coverage of mass shootings?

Jul 21, 2022, 7:00 AM | Updated: Aug 30, 2022, 3:19 pm

Indiana mall mass shootings...

FBI agents gather at the scene of a deadly shooting, Sunday, July 17, 2022, at the Greenwood Park Mall, in Greenwood, Ind. (Kelly Wilkinson/The Indianapolis Star via AP)

(Kelly Wilkinson/The Indianapolis Star via AP)

This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom.

SALT LAKE CITY — I can’t stop thinking about the news this week involving mass shootings.

A mass shooting last night in Indiana. 4 people dead. Court appearance for the mass shooter who killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida.

A legislative report was released after police allow 77 minutes to pass before acting in Uvalde mass shooting. Nineteen children and two teachers dead.

Court appearance for the man accused in the racially motivated mass shooting in a Buffalo, New York mass shooting.

All of these stories were reported by our station and others on one day. Just one day.

And we wonder why people can’t handle the news anymore?

Let me say this first – I love the news. The news is my career, my passion, a significant part of my life. But at the same time, I think when it comes to reporting on mass shootings, the news is hurting us, personally and collectively.

The potential for copycats when we report mass shootings

First, let’s look at the numbers. Before 1999, there was approximately one mass shooting every six months. Fast forward to today. There have been 250 mass shootings in the first six months of 2022 alone. I don’t pretend to be an expert about all of the variables that go into that meteoric rise in devastation, but I know there is research into the effect that media coverage has on encouraging other mass shooters.

Studies show that the more attention a mass shooter gets, the more likely the event will inspire a copycat. A 2017 study found that media coverage of a mass shooting may increase the frequency and lethality of future shootings for much longer than two weeks.

We’ve made improvements in reporting mass shootings

Some mass shooters have openly claimed they wanted fame. In response to the knowledge that these criminals are seeking notoriety, many of us in the media, including here at KSL, are now not saying the name of the shooter. (Occasionally a network anchor will say the name, but I have not read a shooter’s name in a story in recent memory.) Is that an improvement? Yes. Is it enough? Not in my opinion. Here are some other strategies I think we should consider:

  1. Avoid in-depth descriptions of the shooter’s rationale. That only serves the desire for fame and attention.
  2. Limit the overall coverage. I understand, to a certain extent, the desire to report that there has been a shooting, although I think we could debate that. Once the shooting has been reported, how many more times should we report? How much time should we spend on it? How many hours? Days? Weeks? This all feeds into the notoriety the shooters seek.
  3. Limit any and all sensational details of the events, both before, during and after the shooting. The sound of gunfire, screams, anything of that nature is not necessary. It glorifies violence and fear.
  4. Limit more detailed and updated versions of the story to written form. Direct listeners and viewers to written updates online. If listeners want more details, and some will, we can update stories on the website regularly, but not in audio and visual form.

Effect on us personally

I know my experience is not the norm. I read these stories several times an hour for four hours every morning. I continue to read and research throughout the day. I am much more exposed to the news, including news of mass shootings, than the average person.

But I would be willing to guess that your exposure is still more than you’d like or need. How does hearing about a mass shooting affect you? The first time you hear about it, you might feel sad. Perhaps you’ll sigh, and think “not again.”

The second time you hear about the story, you may start to feel the weight of it. There is a weight to hearing about anything of this nature, but especially when children are involved. We humans can only carry so much weight on our spirits before we are scarred by it in meaningful ways.

Here is where I have had respectful points of disagreement with colleagues in years past. When I’ve suggested that we cover mass shootings in particular, and crime in general, less, the response is usually, “we don’t make the news, Amanda. We cover it.” True, but we decide which of the millions of pieces of information we could share in the 60 minutes of every hour are important enough to share.

So, in a very real way, we decide what the news is. Is it a given that a mass shooting is news? If it happens out of state? If it’s the third one this week? If it happens in another country? If we’ve already reported it once? Ten times? See where it gets murky?

Our listeners are the most important

After three decades on the air at KSL NewsRadio, my focus always comes back to our listeners. What information can I share with them that will best serve them? What do they need to know to help them make decisions in their lives? I never want to keep information from anyone because I’m too squeamish or Pollyanna, but I don’t want to pile on because horror is clickbait.

Somewhere in between these extremes is the important balance, but ultimately, we must all find it for ourselves. We in the media are the first line of defense.

Amanda Dickson can be heard along with her colleague Tim Hughes on KSL NewsRadio’s Utah’s Morning News, 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., Monday through Friday.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Opinion

possible new jazz arena shown in rendering of downtown salt lake...

Jeff Caplan

Jeff Caplan’s Minute of News: How to make a billionaire wealthier

Billionaire and Jazz owner Ryan Smith teased at a possible new arena recently. Will he pay for it, or have the state do it for him?

3 days ago

"Scrambled" is a good movie you'll want to see just for Leah McKendrick....

Steve Salles

KSL Movie Show Review: ‘Scrambled’ actress Leah McKendrick was a joy to watch

Actress Leah McKendrick leaves you wanting more of her after watching "Scrambled". It's a good story about "writing what you know."

28 days ago

"The Promised Land" movie is packed with good storytelling and a fun main character....

Steve Salles

KSL Movie Show Review: ‘The Promised Land’ is good storytelling with a side of Mads Mikkelsen

Good storytelling and Mads Mikkelsen make for "Promised Land" being a movie you'll want to see as soon as you can.

29 days ago

holiday shoppers get ready to start spending at city creek mall...

Amanda Dickson

Dickson: All I want for Christmas is to control my holiday spending!

Amanda Dickson wants to start doing a better job of controlling her holiday spending -- putting the emphasis on people rather than stuff.

3 months ago

KSL Movie Show co-host Steve Salles says "Maestro" is a fine picture you won't want to miss....

Steve Salles

KSL Movie Show review: ‘Maestro’ shows a renown composer, flaws and all, exquisitely

Don't miss this movie review of Bradley Cooper's portrayal of Leonard Bernstein. "Maestro" is and exquisite and real must-see picture.

3 months ago

Image of Utah's Morning News host Amanda Dickson and colleague Kate Davis, who says she is grateful...

Amanda Dickson

Dickson: Social media and the importance of the radio community

Unlike social media, radio is one of the few experiences that offers everybody listening the same information at the same time.

3 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Opinion: Should media reduce their coverage of mass shootings?