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University of Wisconsin–Madison
School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Ethics in the News Oct. 6

The deadly campus shooting Thursday at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, that left 10 dead and others injured conjured up familiar ethics debates about reporting in post-tragedy environments.

Notably, conversation circulated around the naming of mass shooters, following comments by Douglas County Sheriff John Hanline who refused to say the shooter’s name publicly. While many have rallied behind movements like #NoNotoriety as a strategy to deter mass shooters, National Public Radio’s Elizabeth Jensen argued in favor of shooter identification as a means of unraveling a story and placing it in the larger context to hopefully identify trends and prevent future tragedies. Poynter’s Kelly McBride added that naming the shooter can prevent misinformation, citing the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting where gunman Adam Lanza’s brother, Ryan Lanza, was incorrectly identified as the perpetrator early in the investigation.

But some large news organizations like CNN have observed the #NoNotoriety concerns and minimized both naming and showing the community college shooter. Fox News evening host Megyn Kelly brought the debate to Twitter voicing her disagreement with CNN’s Don Lemon who asserted that “we journalists must name shooters” in a tweet of his own. The debate is sure to continue as details emerge about UCC gunman Chris Mercer, 26, following the Oct. 1 shooting.

In other journalism ethics news this week:

Center for Journalism Ethics in the news:

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