Two days ago, the Columbia Journalism Review published this piece that Miles Kohrman of The Trace and I wrote to draw attention to a really important effort: getting news organizations to work together to create guidelines for responsible coverage of mass shootings. There’s been some progress on this. This little coalition that Miles and I are part of has seen some news organizations showing restraint in their use of the name, image, writings, etc., of mass killers. But there’s still way too much useless coverage, and not enough of the right kind (stories about the victims, the first responders, the guns, etc.).
When you feel hopeless and helpless about this scourge of mass shootings and how little is being done to prevent them, consider this: If you are a journalist, you can start a conversation in your newsroom about the journalism you’ve done and could do around mass shootings. You could look at the abundant research we link to in that CJR piece and give it some thought. You could get involved by filling out the form at the bottom of that CJR piece.
If you’re not a journalist, you could vote with your feet (your eyeballs, actually). In other words, turn away from coverage that sensationalizes the killer. Give positive feedback to news organizations that are minimizing the use of the killer’s name, image and “manifestos”. Be a responsible consumer of the news.
I’ve stopped sharing on Facebook (it’s a trust, issue), except when absolutely necessary in the name of reporting, and I can’t spend too long on Twitter without wanting to curl up into a ball under my desk (it’s scary, out there). I keep visualizing myself about five years from now typing by candlelight on a manual Olivetti and leaving the pages on the sill of an open window where the wind can decide which way they go and, hence, who will get them. My feelings about technology and what it’s doing for/to us are very mixed.
But for now, I’m planning to hit the “publish” button on this friendly old blog of mine in just a few minutes. I’ve missed this old blog of mine. I miss having the space to write about journalism and other stuff.
In the two years since I mothballed this blog, a lot has changed. The world is crazier than ever. Journalism is still struggling to regain the public’s trust (some people are doing some very cool stuff on that subject). In practical terms, the most important thing that has happened is that I started using an online course management tool to talk to my students. I used to do that here. I still have a lot to say to journalism students, and I hope they (you?) will still read these posts, from time to time.
But that isn’t going to be the primary purpose of reedkath.com. This is going to be a space where I can shout from the mountaintop (into the wind, maybe) about complicated issues related to journalism and reporting on traumatic events, more specifically, that I want to spout off about. I hope you’ll spout back.