News

In Oregon, journalists to get schooled on mass shooting coverage

Posted April 26

The quality of media coverage of mass shootings is debatable. On the one hand, outlets like The Denver Post won a Pulitzer in 2013 for its responsible and sensitive coverage of the Aurora movie theater shooting.

On the other hand, many have criticized the news media's approach to covering shootings, saying the coverage may glorify perpetrators or encourage copycat events.

Covering these tragedies isn't easy; the events are hard to define and sensitivity is often a casualty of the break-neck speed of the news cycle. Last winter, the Washington Post was chastised when it numbered the San Bernadino shooting the 355th of 2015 — a number many said was erroneous.

In October last year, a sheriff overseeing the investaigation into a shooting at Oregon's Umpqua Community College issued a clarion call to the media when he flatly refused to identify the assailant, to deny him "the credit he probably sought prior to this horrific and cowardly act.”

In light of the criticism and the high rate of gun-related deaths in the U.S., journalism educators in Oregon are now trying to better prepare journalists for covering shootings carefully and responsibly when news is breaking and afterward.

"They're hoping to discover how shootings affect the communities involved, what impact they have on the journalists and how they can process these situations when there's very little time to think," Poynter reported. "The goal is to have curricula for coverage of mass shootings, with input from both journalists and the communities they cover, for both j-schools and professional newsrooms."

It may not solve the riddle of the media's possible relationship to mass shootings, but it's a start for a problem that's nearly common enough now to be considered a regular news beat.

Email: chjohnson@deseretnews.com

Twitter: ChandraMJohnson

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