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Does Coverage of Massacres Encourage Unbalanced People?

A dialogue about whether saturation coverage of violence such as the school shooting Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Conn., encourages unbalanced people to do unbalanced things.

We've been having a discussion of saturation media coverage on Lamorinda Patch Facebook.

The dialogue was about how media coverage of mass violence might spur people to do attention-getting things such as" which happened the other day in Pleasant Hill.

On Facebook, I disclosed that I am indeed a member of the media and not so objective on this issue, and then asked, "Is your point that, if we say the media dispensed 720,000 digital words and 7,200 minutes of video footage in the first 72 hours after the Newtown shooting, they should have only dispensed 100,000 words and 144 minutes of video footage, and that might have been moderate enough to avoid the attention of an unbalanced person who would call a school and say, 'you're next.'?"

Justine Parmelee of Lafayette responded,
It really isn't about specific numbers, it's just the intense saturation of coverage. Anti-social and mentally imbalanced people see all the news coverage and all the attention that Lanza got from the atrocity he committed and they start thinking that it's a good way to go down in a blaze of glory.

Lamorinda Patch has been tremendously balanced about this story. The news coverage has not been as intense as you would find from CNN or SFGate. However, I think that for the most part, the coverage has gotten out of hand. Look at poor Ryan Lanza. In the rush to get the story posted first, news sites labeled him the killer and ran his photo. They should have taken more time to vet the story. Now, in addition to mourning a murdered mother and in addition to having to cope with the fact that his brother brutally murdered 26 people, his name has been dragged through the mud nationwide.

How I believe the mainstream media can help: localize the big story, don't make the body count the headline, and take the time to analyze the facts rather than rushing to press.

Parmelee noted that some of her ideas came from a website of a forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Park Elliott Dietz.

What do you think about the media's role? Tell us in the comments.

Born and Raised December 19, 2012 at 05:47 PM
It certainly has encouraged some of the unbalanced group of constant commentors to get out and propogate their particular agenda(s).
Chris Nicholson December 19, 2012 at 06:10 PM
I agree 100%.
lovelafayette December 19, 2012 at 07:17 PM
Devil's advocate. Maybe publicity helps to flush out the crazies from their recluse hermit caves, putting law enforcement in a position to prevent rather than to clean up after the fact. The kid from Suisun is an example of this in Patch today. An analogy can be drawn to the myth that directly asking "are you thinking about hurting yourself or someone else" increases the risk of action, when mental health professionals KNOW those direct questions SAVE lives.
KFrances December 19, 2012 at 07:32 PM
Take the Best and Leave the Rest. Let People say their Point of View. It will self-correct as water seeks it's own level. The Concentration of Media Ownership = Propoganda. Why do we hear ZERO about NDAA on the Networks - why ? No due process ? No trial? Indefinite Detention ? Drones weaponized killing people ? Spying on Water Rights in America ? No coverage - NONE - What is going on ? Is America still America? Propganda and Censorship are happening NOW.
Regular Guy December 19, 2012 at 07:55 PM
The media could cover these atrocities without making the perpetrator infamous. Describe the events accurately but only refer to the perpetrator as "just another sick and twisted nut case". No name, no pictures, no biographies, nothing. That treatment would largely eliminate infamy as a motivation. It certainly couldn't hurt. Fame is part of what they want. The media contributes to evil by giving it to them. Here's a helpful analogy. Some years ago there was a rash of thefts of bucket seats from late-model cars. The insurance companies would pay the owner for replacement seats, often buying slightly used seats from wrecking yards. Then the insurance companies realized that these used seats were in most cases stolen. The companies got together and decided to stop buying used seats as replacements. Suddenly there was no market for stolen seats. The thefts stopped. Our media needs to step up to the challenge of denying fame to evildoers. The public needs to help by actively avoiding media outlets which refuse to cooperate in this effort.
Dive Turn Work December 19, 2012 at 09:15 PM
As I said earlier, able to turn any topic into a drone about drones.
KFrances December 20, 2012 at 02:39 AM
I was replying to a previous comment about free speech. The point is that the media IS Propoganda in the truest sense of the word and their over coverage of this incident and lack of coverage about drones is the evidence. Someone does need to drone on about drones & NDAA - Nobody else is - and it will affect the balanced and the imbalanced, in other words, every man, woman and child in America in a far bigger way. The Titanic is sinking and 'we're rearranging the deck chairs' as one source said.
MIKE ALFORD December 20, 2012 at 06:35 AM
Hell ---- what are you talking about theres just as much censorship right here on PATCH and if you cant see whats going on here and on every dam NEWS paper,radio & TV ----- See If YOU tell the Truth and are not politcly correct --- Well than Live & learn !
Born and Raised December 20, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Well, this is how the majority of Newtown's residents feel about the media. http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/newtown-residents-ready-step-media-glare-100627069.html
Louise Benvenue December 20, 2012 at 06:17 PM
News outlets are often not devoted to facts; they have become a form of ratings seeking "entertainment" if that's how you want to describe Fox 'News." I think the media coverage on this event has raised national awareness of the need for gun control. If new policies save lives in the future, then I'm all for it. Oh, and if Fox News would stop predicting the end of the world because Obama is president (apparently one reason Ms. Lanza bought all the guns) then I support that, too.
Dive Turn Work December 20, 2012 at 06:38 PM
As the headline says, these people are "unbalanced". There will always be some stressor that pushes them over the edge. If it's not the news coverage then it'll be getting cut off in traffic or the guy with 17 items in the 15 items or less line at Safeway. It'll always be something.
Chris J Kapsalis December 20, 2012 at 07:44 PM
There are always copycat crimes. Do we have to report this tragedy? I believe so. Do we have to report the dozens of false alarms and other lessor copy cat attempts, serious or not? I don't think so. Or not as much maybe. I remember when people ran out on the field during baseball games. Many to get on TV, Streekers. When the MLB decided to never televise these idiots it happened much less. So why do we report all these false alarms. The parents and teachers should be notified only. Not news agencies imo, and do not put them on the news. Sick people feed off these tragedies for attention. For there moment on the 6 o'clock news, by just a simple phone call. Also make it a huge crime to copy cat after a tragedy , double sentences, because it is terrorism, treat it as such, But do not report it. That's my opinion. I bet there would be less copy cats.
TMoraga December 20, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Mental health is a serious issue. Society as a whole takes a "I don't want to get involved" view of things - as a result you have cases like this where plenty of people had serious concerns about one's behavior and some reports regarding this particular event would suggest that more than a few people knew that the mother had both taught the kid how to use high powered weapons but that he also had access to them! Which case perhaps we should be working on changing the "I don't want to get involved" attitude or - providing a system or method for people to report such things without being labeled the bad guy. No one ever wants to be the one to suggest a single mother struggling with a difficult situation might be doing something that isn't a good idea.

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