How Not to Cover Mass Murder

I’m sure by now everyone, even my international followers (hi, guys!) have heard about the horrific mass shooting earlier this week at a South Carolina church. You may even know the name of the shooter. But how many victims can you name? Any at all?

It’s a sad truth that we remember the names of mass murderers, but rarely the names of their victims. This is, in part, a numbers game; by definition, there will always be more victims of mass murderers than there are mass murderers, so that’s fewer names to memorize. But the media also plays a significant part in this. They put orders of magnitude more emphasis on the killers than the victims. And it turns out this may be more than a sad injustice, it may be dangerous.

The video below is from Charlie Brooker–who Wikipedia calls an “English satirist and broadcaster”–while working for the BBC, in response to a mass shooting in Ireland. It was a complaint and a plea about how the media covers these events. Give it a watch (it’s only 2:48) and then join me below. (h/t to someecards, where I first saw this)

As far as I can tell, it’s fallen on deaf (or apathetic ears) because this South Carolina case is being covered the same way. Constant coverage, even when there is nothing new to report (filled with rampant speculation). Pictures and videos of the shooter are plastered everywhere, and his every move is being reported. I don’t want to perpetuate the problem, so I’ll just give two quick examples:

Believe me, there are many more, everywhere. CNN (where the image from the 2nd tweet currently takes up a big portion of its homepage), MSNBC, Fox News, the regular news networks, and even the various online outlets. Everywhere.

And it needs to stop, or this is going to keep happening. Of course the coverage is far from the only factor, but why exacerbate what is already close to an epidemic in the US? For ratings and page views? That’s fucking sick!

I’ll close with the list of the victims, since they deserve to be remembered. More here from NPR.

  1. The Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41
  2. Cynthia Hurd, 54
  3. The Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45
  4. Tywanza Sanders, 26
  5. Ethel Lance, 70
  6. Susie Jackson, 87
  7. Depayne Middleton Doctor, 49
  8. The Rev. Daniel Simmons, 74
  9. Myra Thompson, 59



2 thoughts on “How Not to Cover Mass Murder

  1. pinkagendist June 19, 2015 / 4:47 pm

    I knew the name of the first victim you list. When I first heard it on tv, it made me think his parents really didn’t think that through.

    • josh June 19, 2015 / 4:50 pm

      I can see why he apparently went by Clem.

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