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Guidance Reminders As We Cover The Florida School Shooting #

- The gun or guns will almost surely NOT be “automatic” weapons. They almost surely will NOT be “assault” weapons. Guidance: here  and here  and here

- Do remind listeners/readers that this is a developing story and things such as number of casualties are likely to change.

Go easy on superlatives. “First,” “biggest,” “worst” are among words to avoid or only use after careful consideration.

- When it’s known for sure, the name of the shooter does NOT have to be endlessly repeated. Biographical details are important, but repeating the name over and over runs the risk of glorifying the shooter in some eyes.

- Why are we talking about the suspect’s “adoptive parents?” Unless there’s something about his story and adoption that hints at why he did this, the fact that he was adopted isn’t relevant and it’s quite disturbing to parents who have created families by adopting to hear that framing. It sounds to them like we’re saying something about adoption.

- Explain the numbers we’re hearing about “18 school shootings so far this year.” They weren’t all “mass shootings.” Some involved accidental discharges. Context is necessary.

- Please continue to refer to the suspect as a “19-year-old” and NOT as a teenager. As we’ve said in other cases, once you’re 18 you’re an adult. Reserve “teenager” for those 17 and under.

- Please eliminate “under fire” or other such phrases from headlines and teasers.

(“Memmos;” Feb. 15, 2018)



Listen: It’s Not Always Necessary To Name The Shooter #

After mass shootings there are calls for the news media to not report the name of the attacker. As Poynter’s Kelly McBride has written, “it’s easy and convenient for politicians to beat the press up by accusing them of glorifying a bad person.”

We agree with McBride and others that news organizations need to report about the person in order to understand what happened and that the name is an important part of such stories. We have and will continue to report about the man who carried out the attack in Las Vegas and will use his name in our reports.

But Martin Kaste and Steve Inskeep showed this morning that we don’t have to repeat the name in every audio story we do. Listen to their conversation about what investigators have learned concerning the way the gunman prepared for the attack. His name, which had been heard elsewhere in Morning Edition and during our Newscasts, is not said during the conversation. I don’t think anything was lost because of that.

The takeaway is that we can use our judgment. The name does not have to be in every story we broadcast about the killer. We can be respectful of the feelings of those in the audience who find it disturbing to hear the name over and over, and respectful of those who sincerely believe that repeating the name somehow glorifies a horrible person.

Meanwhile, as we’ve been doing, we can tell the stories of the victims — with their names, of course.

(“Memmos;” Oct. 4, 2017)