Does Coverage of Massacres Encourage Unbalanced People?

A dialogue about whether saturation coverage of violence such as the school shooting Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Conn., encourages unbalanced people to do unbalanced things.

We've been having a discussion of saturation media coverage on Lamorinda Patch Facebook.

The dialogue was about how media coverage of mass violence might spur people to do attention-getting things such as" which happened the other day in Pleasant Hill.

On Facebook, I disclosed that I am indeed a member of the media and not so objective on this issue, and then asked, "Is your point that, if we say the media dispensed 720,000 digital words and 7,200 minutes of video footage in the first 72 hours after the Newtown shooting, they should have only dispensed 100,000 words and 144 minutes of video footage, and that might have been moderate enough to avoid the attention of an unbalanced person who would call a school and say, 'you're next.'?"

Justine Parmelee of Lafayette responded,
It really isn't about specific numbers, it's just the intense saturation of coverage. Anti-social and mentally imbalanced people see all the news coverage and all the attention that Lanza got from the atrocity he committed and they start thinking that it's a good way to go down in a blaze of glory.

Lamorinda Patch has been tremendously balanced about this story. The news coverage has not been as intense as you would find from CNN or SFGate. However, I think that for the most part, the coverage has gotten out of hand. Look at poor Ryan Lanza. In the rush to get the story posted first, news sites labeled him the killer and ran his photo. They should have taken more time to vet the story. Now, in addition to mourning a murdered mother and in addition to having to cope with the fact that his brother brutally murdered 26 people, his name has been dragged through the mud nationwide.

How I believe the mainstream media can help: localize the big story, don't make the body count the headline, and take the time to analyze the facts rather than rushing to press.

Parmelee noted that some of her ideas came from a website of a forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Park Elliott Dietz.

What do you think about the media's role? Tell us in the comments.

Born and Raised December 20, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Well, this is how the majority of Newtown's residents feel about the media. http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/newtown-residents-ready-step-media-glare-100627069.html
Louise Benvenue December 20, 2012 at 06:17 PM
News outlets are often not devoted to facts; they have become a form of ratings seeking "entertainment" if that's how you want to describe Fox 'News." I think the media coverage on this event has raised national awareness of the need for gun control. If new policies save lives in the future, then I'm all for it. Oh, and if Fox News would stop predicting the end of the world because Obama is president (apparently one reason Ms. Lanza bought all the guns) then I support that, too.
Dive Turn Work December 20, 2012 at 06:38 PM
As the headline says, these people are "unbalanced". There will always be some stressor that pushes them over the edge. If it's not the news coverage then it'll be getting cut off in traffic or the guy with 17 items in the 15 items or less line at Safeway. It'll always be something.
Chris J Kapsalis December 20, 2012 at 07:44 PM
There are always copycat crimes. Do we have to report this tragedy? I believe so. Do we have to report the dozens of false alarms and other lessor copy cat attempts, serious or not? I don't think so. Or not as much maybe. I remember when people ran out on the field during baseball games. Many to get on TV, Streekers. When the MLB decided to never televise these idiots it happened much less. So why do we report all these false alarms. The parents and teachers should be notified only. Not news agencies imo, and do not put them on the news. Sick people feed off these tragedies for attention. For there moment on the 6 o'clock news, by just a simple phone call. Also make it a huge crime to copy cat after a tragedy , double sentences, because it is terrorism, treat it as such, But do not report it. That's my opinion. I bet there would be less copy cats.
TMoraga December 20, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Mental health is a serious issue. Society as a whole takes a "I don't want to get involved" view of things - as a result you have cases like this where plenty of people had serious concerns about one's behavior and some reports regarding this particular event would suggest that more than a few people knew that the mother had both taught the kid how to use high powered weapons but that he also had access to them! Which case perhaps we should be working on changing the "I don't want to get involved" attitude or - providing a system or method for people to report such things without being labeled the bad guy. No one ever wants to be the one to suggest a single mother struggling with a difficult situation might be doing something that isn't a good idea.


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