If the way the media reports a shooting event contributes to the spread of more shootings, changing methods could help reduce imitation.
Changing the way the media reports violence has been successful in reducing imitators. Furthermore, the World Health Organization has published media guidelines on reporting suicidal shooters to avoid imitational rampages. This research is based on 50 years of research.
Not sensationalizing suicide is one strategy. Avoiding prominent headlines is another. Not implying that suicide is caused by a single factor such as depression is another. In addition, not repeating the story too often and not providing step-by-step descriptions are also effective. Reporters have also learned that limiting the use of photographs and videos is helpful.
Don’t name suspects in media reports.
For reporting mass shootings, similar ideas are being employed. The “Don’t Name Them” campaign, for example, was developed by the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training team. They formulated it in partnership with the FBI.
The campaign proposes limited naming. In addition, it recommends keeping individual definitions to a minimum. As they limit sensationalism and refuse to broadcast shooter remarks or footage, they reduce media-induced imitation of these crimes.
The FBI used similar tactics in discussing a recent shooting. They did not mention the killer’s name.
At least part of what drives disturbed people to do this is a perverted sense of fame or glory. For the sake of the victims and their families, reporters keep shooter information to a minimum. In addition, they make sure that other sick minds don’t believe this is an easy way to fame.
Adopting the WHO and the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training team’s suggestions could help reduce the number of mass shootings in the U.S.
Media reports should portray all shooters in a bad light.
There are also other ways that media outlets could use to reduce imitational mass shootings. This is according to studies on generalized imitation. Presenting the shooter’s actions in a bad light could be one technique.
Discussions of the shooter’s actions may portray them as dishonorable or cowardly. For example, providing details about preparation, planning, and firing on innocent people. In addition, it has been proven that associating observed conduct with punishment reduces the chance of imitation.
Emotional responses such as shame do not produce positive outcomes. Therefore, portraying the shooter’s behavior as shameful could reduce any perceived reward of the behavior.
Avoid details of motivation.
Another option is to avoid the details of the shooter’s motivation for acting in this manner.
People are more prone to emulate the behavior of others who they perceive to be similar to themselves in general. Suppose the media reports constantly mention an alleged motive for the massacre. They may unintentionally draw attention to parallels between the shooter and others. These things might otherwise go unreported.
For example, a media report might claim that a shooter got retribution after years of bullying. This could represent a mass shooting as a viable reaction option for people who have been bullied. In addition, it might offer an opportunity to compare similar backgrounds to the gunman.
Understanding the motivation for a mass shooting is crucial. However, detailed descriptions of rationales may not only enlighten but also raise the risk of replication.
Shorten media reports.
A third option is to shorten the time of press coverage following a mass incident.
For example, a dose-response relationship is useful in the instance of suicide. Increasing media coverage of a suicide occurrence leads to an increase in imitational suicides.
Furthermore, it’s the same with mass shootings. After a mass shooting, there is a rush for information. In addition, media coverage may last for weeks. Reduced total media coverage may reduce the risk of imitation following a mass shooting event.
Media attention rewards the shooter’s acts through notoriety at the same time as improving the shooter’s social status.
Minimize live media reports.
A fourth method is to minimize the usage of live media events. This is crucial in the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting.
However, there is a greater thirst for information in the early aftermath of a mass shooting. This information does not have to be provided in a live event. This could add to the overall amount of “excitement” surrounding the event.
Instead, textual updates could provide information. Furthermore, this would reduce perceived reward. In addition, it would also reduce overall interest in the event. This too would further reduce imitation.
Similarly, new channels must convey merely the facts of a mass shooting. They must not create amusing or dramatic digital re-enactments of the event. It’s important for media reports to make a clear endeavor. They must be willing to lessen the frenzied energy of a breaking news item.
Furthermore, to reduce interest in the event, the simple facts should be communicated in a clear or even dull manner. It’s always best to stay away from sensationalism.
Finally, media stories should refrain from detailing a mass shooter’s actions before, during, or after the incident.
Extensive descriptions of the shooter’s activities or graphical depictions are not helpful. In addition, they may provide extra information about the behaviors that may encourage further copying.
Only the information required to describe the event should be provided. The less description of behavior, the less likely is the imitation of it.