Blogs > Frye on the News

Keeping his eye on the news and offering commentaries and insights on what is happening in Oakland County, around the world, on the tube and in the news.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Naming a killer

Again, there is an effort to censor news.

And this is a noble effort, the request to not name or show the picture of a serial or spree killer.

OK, you don't name the killer in Connecticut. Does it matter less then when ten adults, or perhaps just one person is killed? Do you not name that killer? Do you not name anyone who commits a crime that is attention-seeking, such as protestors or that guy who threw shoes at President George W. Bush? It's a slippery slope.

The argument is these mass killers want attention. I don't think that is primarily what drives them, though. I think the act is the attention they want, bringing horror into the world, more than infamy for them. Of course, there's no answer for all killers. But it seems the primary goal is to hurt and cause pain.

Our business it give information, not to give some of the information. The idea of not naming rape victims makes sense, because of the tendency to not report the crime because of the humiliation. But then domestic violence advocates ask us to not name accusers in such cases. That's tough, but then it leads to others saying they don't want to be named.

And are sex offenders usually initially victims themselves? Again, if you ask to withhold some information, then what right do you have to release any information — there's always someone who won't want to be named. I've had witnesses in trial beg not to be named, some reasonably and some unreasonably.

Now, there is common sense and good taste. One idea that I've supported is not putting the shooter's picture on the front page in these cases, focusing rightfully on the victims. But that is common sense because that is what the audience wants.

We have to work knowing how the audience will react, going with it sometimes and sometimes against it. But excluding information is not the answer and not going to stop these tragedies.

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