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Should Media Stop Using Names of Mass Killers?, AP Asks Ethicist Bob Steele '69

Should Media Stop Using Names of Mass Killers?, AP Asks Ethicist Bob Steele '69

December 20, 2007

Bob Steele 4.jpgDecember 20, 2007, Greencastle, Ind. - When media outlets cover a mass shooting -- such as the recent random killings in an Omaha, Nebraska mall by a troubled 19-year-old -- are they wrong to provide the name of the perpetrator? "The public deserves to know the name of Robert Hawkins," says Bob Steele, Nelson Poynter Scholar for Journalism Values at the Poynter Institute in Florida. Steele, a 1969 graduate of DePauw University, is among the experts who discuss the case of Hawkins, who left a suicide note in which he declared that he wanted to be "famous."

"To speak of a person as a nondescript, unnamed gunman doesn't work -- it can lead to rumor and falsehoods," Steele tells AP. "So we should print the name, but we shouldn't report the story in a way that elevates that person."

The story by Jocelyn Noveck asks the question, "Should the media have denied Robert Hawkins the odious fame he coveted, by refusing to identify him by name? It's an AP Associated Press.jpgintriguing idea, and one that's been suggested by several media columnists since the horrible rampage earlier this month."

The complete article can be accessed at the Web site of the Denver Post.

Read another recent story about Bob Steele, who was awarded an honorary doctoral degree from DePauw at last May's commencement.  Coverage of the event, including a video clip, is available by clicking here.

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