Joe Mandese, editor in chief at MediaPost, poses some interesting questions that news people face in the wake of tragic events like yesterday's bombings at the Boston Marathon. His headline asks a pointed question -- How will our nation change?
He notes that terrorists and other crazies who shoot schoolchildren or people in theaters or who blow up buildings often want to see their names out there, and also want to publicize whatever cause they are championing. Joe asks if the news media should withhold the names of these perpetrators, and not make public their grievances and causes they want to advance.
We, the public, want to know every detail. But this is not an OJ Simpson trial, taking place in a court of law. This is about random mass killings and hurting lots of innocent and unsuspecting people. Perhaps we shouldn't know the bomber's name or what organization, if any, he is affiliated with. Why give air to a crazy person's viewpoints? Doesn't the media attention simply encourage others to use terrorist tactics to get their 15 minutes of fame?
There's a precedent for withholding information. News media, for the most part, respect a rape victim's privacy by not using her name or showing her picture. Minor children are usually afforded the same treatment.
We want to know details. We have a right to have details. But perhaps there are times when we must let it go, as a way to blunt the impact and effectiveness of terrorist acts.
It's a good question you raise, Joe. It's a tricky decision for journalists to make.