Don’t even say his name. He was a sick and deranged man who murdered a news crew on live television in Virginia. Like you, my heart aches for the families of Alison Parker and Adam Ward and their loved ones. And also like you, I despise the man who committed the horrible crime, which is why I implore my former media colleagues and all social media users to stop using his name and plastering his picture all over the place.
Refer to him as a “disgruntled employee” or “the shooter” or anything but the name he desperately wanted everyone to know along with his image that he wanted everyone to see.
After about 10 years of anchoring the news, I stopped saying the names of the perpetrators of mass shootings. Some news directors supported my stance; most did not. I should share with you that my position on this is not widely embraced among journalists. But I feel strongly about it. I did not want to contribute to the infamy that evil people were so obviously seeking. I also didn’t want to give other deranged individuals ideas for their own warped sense of grandeur.
I feel the same about the man who killed Parker and Ward. By sharing his name and image over and over, the media (and social pages) are inadvertently giving credence to his hate and opening a conduit for other tortured and twisted souls who believe notoriety in any form is worth obtaining.
News outlets made the same mistake when a man murdered innocent churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina. For weeks, headlines included his name and talked about his stated reasons for committing an unspeakable act that could never be justified on any level.
The psychotic killer in Roanoke, Virginia sought recognition by posting his crime on social media. And as I scroll through news and social media feeds, I see his photo and name posted as often, if not more than the victims’. I fear we’re fueling the flames for future acts of violence by giving horrible people the 15 minutes of fame they crave.
Some will use the Virginia shooting as an opportunity to push political or social agendas. Perhaps some good will come out of that. Discussing possible contributing factors to psychotic acts is responsible journalism; giving killers more attention than victims is not.
So to my media friends and everyone on social media, I ask the following out of respect and compassion for the victims’ families and in hopes of deterring other disturbed individuals from committing similar acts: Continue to publish and broadcast the names of Alison Parker and Adam Ward. Foster the subsequent discussions aimed at preventing similar horrific events, but don’t focus on the shooter’s identity. In fact, don’t even say his name.