Sadly, once again, a mass killing is in the news. The horrific tragedy that took place last Friday in Santa Barbara, California, during which seven young lives, including the killer, were snuffed-out, has dominated the news this week. Killing sprees of this nature have become all too familiar and are always fodder for gun control debate as well as an outpouring of sympathy. A means to stopping these massacres from recurring is something that I wish I could provide, but short of banning all guns I certainly can’t claim to have an answer. I will leave that for the legal and medical experts.
When it comes to television coverage of these multiple killings, CNN’s Anderson Cooper has decided he won’t mention the name of the killer in his analysis, discussion and reporting, instead choosing to focus on the victims. While I appreciate Cooper’s attempt to show respect for those who have been slain, and their families, the fact is that the perpetrator, in this case one Elliot Rodger, like it or not, is also part of the news. If CNN is a news outlet, it shouldn’t attempt to clean up the news by ignoring the killer as if he didn’t exist.
Not mentioning the names of killers won’t make them go away. Were it that simple I’d be all for it. If you want to do a background program on the victims of mass killings then by all means leave out mention of the killer by name. But if you are presenting the news, no matter how despicable the murderer may be, he or she is the major player.
Similarly during the O.J. Simpson trial it was often stated that the victims were being forgotten, and were not referred to enough during the hearing. Well, the truth is the trial wasn’t about the victims, no trial is, it was about the person facing the charges. Victim impact statements come after a verdict has been reached. The trial is about the accused, not the victims. If we consider a hypothetical trial in which we know the accused is innocent, then no amount of victim empathy should come to bear on the verdict. Justice is supposed to be blind.
The presentation of news – not documentaries, but straight-forward news – should also be blind.