How not to Cover a Mass Murder (Charlie Brooker Video)

Charlie Brooker and a forensic psychiatrist give the television news media tips on how and how not to cover a mass murder.

Takeaway: Don’t obsess about the killer or make him a celebrity of sorts, don’t dramatize the violence, and localize the story as a quotidian one.

5 Responses

  1. Very interesting post, Professor Cole.

    One thing I’ve found to be particularly disgusting about the coverage of the recent string of mass murders is the implicit and sometimes explicit maligning of the mentally-ill, Muslims, immigrants, so-called “preppers”, and other categorized “groups.” Indeed in the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (who should be still be considered innocent until proven otherwise), we see someone who was generally considered to be well-liked, charming, and secular. As hard as the corporate media may try, there is no cut-and-dry profile of mass murderer. And history has shown us that policy that has impulsively arisen as a result of these acts, including our perpetual War on Terror, have not addressed the problem of extremism and anomie but aggravated it and produced related complications.

  2. What I saw was that a mass murderer can be anyone. They don’t all look and act like monsters, until they act.

  3. I agree with this criticism 100%, but I also find it incredibly unrealistic since it is essentially asking humanity to suppress its natural curiosity about things which it doesn’t understand.

    In other words, the same instinct that makes us wonder why an apple falls from the tree is the same instinct that makes us wonder why a “seemingly normal teenager” goes nuts and starts shooting up his classmates.

    How do you suppress one instinct without suppressing the other?

    • That is a part of what being a professional is. You dont act on all your instincts but stamp out the ones that get in the way of you doing a good job.

      No one is saying you cant think about the killers motivations in your private time. But as a journalist on air you do not voice that thought unless you have a solid answer from the accused. How does speculation help anyone but the bean counters?

  4. But, but, but… 24×7 coverage, featuring our beautiful media stars, keeps people watching, even if nothing happens or we give out the wrong information. People watching means higher ratings. Higher ratings mean we can bill more for advert space.

    It’s the MONEY!!!

    If one network doesn’t do it, the others will, and will get that increased market share at the expense of the “responsible” network. As Chris Andersen notes, “lookey-loo” is human nature.

    It’s a vicious cycle, the free market feeding on human weakness, powered by the force of law. We see this happening on many fronts in the US, from food overconsumption to ludicrously violent entertainment products.

    The sad fact that massacre coverage inspires more massacres – and the US has been on a real binge over the last year – is “sad” only if you’re not an investor. To many people, it’s a continuing bonanza.

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