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stop creating copy cat killers


snip-Loren Coleman’s book The Copycat Effect convincingly proves that sensational media coverage of murders and suicides leads to additional murders and suicides. Coleman’s weblog,, suggests that the Colorado attacks may have been triggered by media coverage of a similar attack on an Omaha, Neb., shopping mall a few days before.

snip--Even if one grants the arguments that publication of a publicity-minded killer’s name and picture serve a public interest that trumps the risk of encouraging copycats, there are some standards that every responsible media outlet could adopt, to at least reduce the risk:

1. If a killer was seeking infamy, neither his picture nor his words should ever appear on the front page. The front page, because it seen at newsstands, convenience stores, and other locations, even by people who don’t read the newspaper, has a publicity value that far exceeds any other part of the newspaper.
2. Temple argues that photos help readers understand that people who do terrible things are often very ordinary-looking. If so, a single photo on a single day is sufficient.
3. Never run a photo or video which the killer has chosen for his own publicity. Similarly, never run a photo of the killer “in action” – as in a surveillance tape. Such photos are enticing to sociopaths.
4. Do publish a photo showing the disgusting post-mortem condition of the killer, with half his face blown off after he has
killed himself or been shot by a good citizen. The photo should appear, not in the printed paper, but on the newspaper’s Web site and behind a warning page. Such photos would deglamourize the perpetrators.
5. Although there is some news value in reporting the killer’s name initially, there is no need to use the name incessantly. Talk shows, TV programs, and follow-up news articles should follow the good example of Caplis and Silverman. Refer to the killer instead as “the coward,” or some other term.