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HYPED COVERAGE: It must censor the individual and focus on the event instead
"THE silicon chip inside her head gets switched to overload. And nobody's gonna go to school today, she's going to make them stay at home. And daddy doesn't understand it, he always said she was as good as gold. And he can see no reason, 'cause there are no reasons. What reason do you need to be shown?"
On July 20, in Aurora, Colorado, at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, a man dressed in black armoured clothing and a gas mask opened fire upon the crowd. He silently made his way up the aisle of the cinema shooting anyone and everyone in his way. He called himself The Joker.
Two minutes. That was all the time it took for one man to kill 12 people, injure 59, and tear through the lives of hundreds of their friends and relatives. Hundred and twenty seconds, and an AR-15 military style semi-automatic assault rifle, and a 12-gauge Remington shotgun, and a .40 calibre Glock handgun.
The 24-year-old (clearly insane -- if not by clinical verdict then by consequence of his actions) had carried out his monstrous mission with painstaking premeditation. Over the past two months, he had legally purchased a veritable arsenal of weaponry and ammunition, he had carefully planned his method of attack, and he had booby-trapped his home.
In the 11 days since, the discourse surrounding the shootings have gone down a rather predictable route. There have been calls by some for a renewed debate about gun control in America. Violence in movies is once again being blamed for violence in the streets. Parents are being criticised for taking their children to the movies. And all of this while one suburban American community struggles to come to terms with yet another senseless act of violence.
The more concerning conversation, however, is just how the media conducts itself in these situations. The public have become so used to the idea of second-by-second news coverage in moments of great crises that they often overlook its repercussions.
Twenty-four-hour news has created such an insatiable appetite for stories like these that their haste often leads to reporting that is either distorted or misleading. Everything from the perpetrators of a crime, to their affiliations and motivations, is based on wild speculation. In fact, we are inundated with so much opinion and editorial that the facts often get buried under layers and layers of theory and conjecture. So much so that everything we think we know after the first few hours of an event turns out to be wrong. We experienced it after Columbine, after 9/11, and after the Norway massacre.
What's more, given the studies showing that mass shootings have a tendency to trigger other copycat attacks, how wise is it really to have such hyped media coverage? The power of suggestion is, after all, a considerable thing. And we all know that it doesn't take much to set off yet another loony with a gun.
And then, there is the whole healing process. Mourning is a private affair. It cannot take place on national television or in the pages of daily newspapers. Healing takes time and space. The 12 who died in Aurora need to rest in peace and the media would do well to make themselves scarce as to allow it to happen.
There needs to be a new standard operating procedure when it comes to the reporting of such events. Journalists should strive to tell the most boring version of the story possible. It should be focused on the event and not the individual. It should be about causes and effects. Media outlets should try their damnedest to avoid sensationalising the story. Page one should be about the consequences of such a shooting on the community at large. It should not be splashed with the words "I'm the Joker" in all caps.
The public at large does not benefit in any way when we give this madman his 15 minutes of fame. He is unworthy of our attention and we are playing right into his hands when we give it to him. Because the name of the individual responsible is unimportant. He or she will be forgotten in a matter of news cycles. It is the moment that is important. It is the moment that will linger in people's memories. Think of it not as censorship by collusion. Think of it as punishment.