Jacksonville Shooting Victims Deserve More Lasting Media Attention!

The deadly shooting of three Black residents of Jacksonville, Florida, by a 21-year-old white supremacist dominated the news cycle for days before being supplanted on the front pages of newspapers by Hurricane Idalia – and with good cause.

Although the death toll was not as high as in other large-scale shootings this year, the suspected hate motivation made it especially newsworthy given the political context.

Surveillance video showed the gunman aiming his “AR-style” rifle toward helpless people outside and inside the Dollar General shop. Viewers were informed about the upsetting nature of the photos, as is normal. I viewed the clips and was worried, but not in the way that emphasized the warning.

The video showed no victims, let alone how they were slain. What bothered me was the portrayal of the assailant as a powerful guy armed with a lethal weapon, a hero for like-minded hatemongers.

This is not an endorsement of the “no notoriety” strategy, which pushes law enforcement and the news media to avoid releasing the shooter’s identity or showing photos of him.

The assailant’s name and headshot, as well as some data concerning motivation and armament, are fundamental parts of the event that must be reported.

And, according to popular belief, it is the crime, not the culprit, that can motivate others to follow in the offender’s murderous footsteps. Racist sympathizers may not remember the gunman’s name or face, but they are well aware of – and celebrate – what he did.

Jacksonville Shooting Victims Deserve More Lasting Media Attention!

Images depicting the shooter in action (like in the Jacksonville rampage) or intimidating stances generated by the assailant (such as the photo of the Virginia Tech gunman brandishing guns on the front page of The New York Times) are superfluous.

Unfortunately, the news media occasionally crosses the line between reporting and celebrity watching. For example, coverage of the shooter who killed 60 people and injured hundreds more at a Las Vegas outdoor concert in 2017 covered his favorite casino games, his love of singing, and even what he ate that night.

Such unnecessary information did not assist us in grasping the gunman’s motivation; instead, it humanized an undeserving individual.

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