Kopel on Media-Inspired Copy-Cats

Dave Kopel’s article for the Rocky Mountain News, “Reducing the risk of copycat killers: How papers can avoid glorifying perpetrators,” deserves a wide audience. Here are his five main suggestions:

1. If a killer was seeking infamy, neither his picture nor his words should ever appear on the front page. …

2. … [If] photos help readers understand that people who do terrible things are often very ordinary-looking… a single photo on a single day is sufficient.

3. Never run a photo or video which the killer has chosen for his own publicity. …

4. Do publish a photo showing the disgusting post-mortem condition of the killer, with half his face blown off after he has killed himself or been shot by a good citizen. The photo should appear, not in the printed paper, but on the newspaper’s Web site and behind a warning page. Such photos would deglamourize the perpetrators.

5. Although there is some news value in reporting the killer’s name initially, there is no need to use the name incessantly. …