Standby for more violence

[Megan] In the wake of the Virginia tech murders, there has been a lot of editorialising about gun control and mental health interventions. But I haven't found a single editorial addressing one factor we know creates these mass murders: reporting on the mass murders. In the next few weeks and months, even over the next few years, expect to see copycat killings inspired by Cho's actions. The more saturated the media coverage, the more such events we are likely to get. But as far as I know, few papers have taken to advocating that we cut down on news coverage of these events.

To editors, of course, the costs of such a stance are obvious. Being journalists, they automatically assume that these costs outweigh the benefits. This is not, in fact, all that obvious to me. But even if it is necessary and even good that we have European journalists sticking their microphones in every student's face to record their opinion on gun control for posterity, while American journalists piously demand to know "What was in your heart?"--even so, it seems to me that there is one obvious step the media should take, which is not reporting anything about the killer.

I don't know how many such killers this would stop; how much of their reward is the glee of killing, and how much the notion that they will be famous for their acts? But on the margin, it has to help; after all, Cho took out time from his busy killing schedule to mail his lunatic rantings to NBC. And the cost seems to me to be trivially low. Knowing Cho's identity, watching his video, have told the American public nothing they needed to know. The important thing is the victims; and yet, it is the madman's name we all know. Newspapers don't print the names of rape victims, by general agreement, so why not perform the same service in the case of shooting sprees?