Last Updated:July 24 @ 12:15 pm

Aurora victims don't want media to use shooter's name

By David Bauder

NEW YORK (AP) = Some relatives of people killed in the Colorado theater shooting are urging television news outlets to resist using alleged killer James Holmes' name and image in their stories for fear it gives him the infamy he craves.

Two families made that specific point to Anderson Cooper on CNN, who said Tuesday he has largely complied. Some news experts, while saying journalists must be attuned to these sensitivities, also warned against losing sight of the chief responsibility to inform the public.

Tom Teves, whose son Alex was among 12 people shot and killed Friday in Aurora, Colo. at a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises," challenged TV news divisions during a Monday interview with Cooper.

"I would like to see CNN come out with a policy that said moving forward we're not going to talk about the gunman," Teves said. "What we're going to say is, a coward walked into a movie theater and started shooting people. He's apprehended. The coward's in jail. He will never see the light of day again. Let's move on to the victims. Never talk to him again."

Jordan Ghawi, whose 24-year-old sister Jessica was killed, said he has been talking publicly about her in part because "I don't want the media to be saturated with the shooter's name. The more air time these victims have, the less time that man gets his time on television.

"I can tell you the shooter in Virginia Tech and Norway and not long ago here in Denver," Ghawi told CNN on Friday. "I don't want that to happen here. I want the victims to be remembered rather than just this coward."

Cooper said he didn't use Holmes' name at all while he was on the air Monday, instead using phrases like "suspect," "accused killer" or "accused shooter." He also tried to limit images of Holmes on his show, airing some from the suspect's court appearance Monday about halfway through his hour-long newscast.

He said his show was acting on its own, not from some CNN directive.

"Obviously my primary role is to report and be a journalist and tell people as much as possible," he said. "I think people know that person's name. They certainly know it by now and they've certainly seen the pictures over and over again."

Traveling to Colorado to report on the scene gives journalists a better idea of the community's sensitivity than they might otherwise get, he said.

Certainly there have been instances where TV news organizations hold back, like when there are particularly gruesome pictures or if reporting could threaten a hostage's life. American television networks resisted showing pictures of people jumping to their deaths from the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 and, after the first day of the story, restricted use of video of the airplanes striking the Twin Towers.

But news executives constantly hear from people who don't want disturbing pictures shown, either because they are painful or give undue publicity to people responsible for brutal acts, said Marcy McGinnis, a journalism professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and a longtime former CBS News executive.

"If you follow that, unfortunately, you would basically get to the point where you would never show anything of a tragic nature because it always affects somebody personally," she said. "You can't really make the decision on what to show or not show based on what the people affected are thinking."

Who Holmes is and why he allegedly committed the atrocity is a major part of the story, she said, and digging into this could provide information that someday stops a person from doing something similar.

At the same time, most people were curious about what Holmes looked like when he made his first court appearance on Monday, she said. A larger issue for 24-hour news networks moving forward will be the temptation to use images of Holmes so often they become like video wallpaper, especially because photos of him with dyed hair and wild eyes are so striking.

Cooper said he didn't think it was an either-or situation. "I think you can be sensitive to a community's feelings and still report accurately and with as much detail as anybody else," he said.

He also doesn't want to contribute to increasing Holmes' infamy so copycats might follow.

Bill Wheatley, a veteran NBC News executive who now teaches at Columbia University, said that while it is important for networks to be sensitive, he doesn't believe that restricting the use of Holmes' name or picture will have any effect on whether someone does something similar.

He doesn't understand how television can cover a judicial process involving an alleged mass killer and not use the person's picture if it's available.

"Self-censorship can be very dangerous," Wheatley said. "I'm not indicating there aren't times when self-censorship is appropriate, but they should be rare. It's a slippery path, because at some point you find yourself not reporting information that the public deserves to have.

"The line is not always clear," he said.

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3 Comments

  1. CharlieComment by vietnamvet
    July 25, 2012 @ 10:22 am

    “I’m not indicating there aren’t times when self-censorship is appropriate, but they should be rare. It’s a slippery path, because at some point you find yourself not reporting information that the public deserves to have.

    So far, it appears that the media holds back information that can harm their favorite politicians … but readily publicizes anything that harms conservative principles, or sells papers.

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    • lwessonComment by lwesson
      July 25, 2012 @ 11:45 am

      Talk about holding back for the LEFT.

      I would like to know if Holmes had an association with the, Occupy Wall Street Movement organization and IF he was actually connected to, The Black Ops Division of that movement.

      A simple walk through, on the NET, says that he was tied in, per Occupy & it’s Black Op.

      You Vietnamvet, likely know how much, Holmes equipment, rig, cost him, or someone. Have been to a few, ah, gun shows and know a bit. Holmes did not go for the used Chevy route in equipment. More like a late model Rolls Royce in his taste. How did he get all dressed up to kill, and pay for all of the classy Robo Cop stuff? My guess, in the neighborhood of around $15,000, at least. Figure in the apt. cost too.

      The gun range owner, asked that question and suggested $10,000, but was ignored a few days ago. FOX seemed upset that he was so consistently level headed.

      Bill O’Riley, last night blabbered on about 60,000 rounds bought, again and again, with other dumb information that shows that he knows very little about what he is talking about. Do tell. Argued with a Conservative Congressman, that knew what he was talking about! 6,000 rounds, but old Bill could have talked about (since he is “looking after us”) Holmes as to just how the heck he paid for the stuff. Oh, no, too demanding… .

      Fox tried to get the Police Chief to repeat that Holmes was alone, alone, alone. That he is a solo act, to the point that I thought that there was MUCH MUCH more going on.

      Here, there is enough being held back, I think, to power Hoover Dam, just like information about Obama. More like a dam blowout there!

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  2. considerComment by consider
    July 28, 2012 @ 12:09 pm

    This is an American tragedy. Not only in the devestation wrought by one individual against these innocent victims, yet also, as an indictment of the current state of the mental health system in this country. I will await to hear information that will eventually be learned, however his age alone is an indicator of when serious mental illness strikes.

    Dismanteling the mental health system of yesteryear has left a vacuum which has yet resulted in workable solutions for treating illness as acute as cancer. One result of this broken system is unmonitored, worsening illness, and often self medication via substance abuse by those left to fend for themselves.

    Mainstream Americans have little awareness of this impact until it strikes close to home. When viewing from a distance, or after an act so horrific that it defies understanding, the easy way out is to direct the dialogue toward gun control and media coverage. These are valid and understandable reactions, yet they offer no long term remedy to the increasing occurrences of these types of tradegies.

    There are many parents in this country grieving deeply the loss of these innocent men, women and children, the grief of their families and of lives forever changed.

    I suggest a dialogue that could prove more beneficial would include addressing mental health issues, treatments and interventions. Additionally, in our media driven lives, a reevaluation of the impact and consequences of our cultural acceptance of unfettered violence as “entertainment”.

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