Politics Blog

Does media coverage encourage more spree shootings?

In the wake of the murder spree Tuesday, Sept. 17 at the Washington Naval Yard, some are asking what could be done to reduce these kinds of horrific events.

We have the predictable flareup of the endless and fruitless national debate about gun control, and the perennial calls for better mental health services.

Joshua Holland, senior digital producer for BillMoyers.com, , raises a different question. He suggests that shooters may be at least partly motivated by the intense public attention focused on shooters--even though many of them aren't alive to experience it. This too is not a new or original observation.

Holland compares the situation to what happens when an attention-seeker runs out onto the field during a sporting event. The camera is nearly always turned away, even though some of us might enjoy watching security guards wrestle the offender to the ground. The camera is turned away to avoid rewarding this behavior with 15 seconds of nationally-televised fame.

Holland misses one key difference, though: Sports broadcasters aren't keeping those miscreants off our television screens as a service to society--denying us a cheap laugh in the interests of maintaining civic decorum. They are doing it because they work for the teams they cover--either as direct employees of those teams, or as indirect beneficiaries of a contractual relationship. Team officials have their own valid reasons for keeping these disruptions to a minimum.

I also suspect that most sports fans approve of screening out these booze-fueled hijinks because they interrupt the games.

What do you think, as a news consumer? Would you prefer to see your news media of choice turn away from these events?