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Some In Media Suggest Showing Graphic Photos of School Shootings

In newsrooms across a country where mass shootings have become a gruesome facet of daily life, “We all know the playbook by now. We all know how it unfolds,” said Texas Tribune editor Sewell Chan. “The grief, the announcement, the outrage. Some semblance of public debate. And then generally no action. And that has been the pattern, really, for at least two decades, going back to Columbine.” Journalists and academics are questioning whether the traditional coverage model is adequately capturing the carnage, and even considering whether showing more graphic footage would force the public, and political leaders, to confront the reality of the gun violence epidemic, reports Vanity Fair. “Couldn’t have imagined saying this years ago, but it’s time - with the permission of a surviving parent - to show what a slaughtered 7-year-old looks like,” said David Boardman, former executive editor of The Seattle Times who now runs Temple University’s journalism school.


“Maybe only then will we find the courage for more than thoughts and prayers.” Boardman added, “Historically, any photograph of a dead body in any circumstance is something that we’re quite circumspect and careful about, but there are moments in history where I think the reality—the visual reality of this sort of carnage—may be the only way to really move citizenry and politicians to the action that clearly is needed.”

Nancy Barnes, NPR’s head of news, concurred. “We cannot sanitize these killings." CNN"s Jake Tapper said, “There are images of these shootings that law enforcement and, frankly, we in the news media ... don’t share with you. Because they’re so horrific, but maybe we should. Maybe the shock to the system would prompt our leaders to figure out how to make sure society can stop these troubled men ... from obtaining these weapons used to slaughter our children.” Columbia University journalism Prof. Bill Grueskin said the problem is that “you can’t get the consent of the victim, just of the relatives. Perhaps it’s time to add a checkoff box to the back of our driver’s licenses, next to the organ-donation line, allowing one’s corpse to be publicized to showcase the horrors of America’s infatuation with assault weapons.”

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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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