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← A call to end the media coverage mass shooters want

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Showing Revision 6 created 08/20/2020 by Erin Gregory.

  1. Every parent's worst nightmare:
  2. July 20, 2012,
  3. my phone rings at 4:30 in the morning.
  4. It's my son Alex's girlfriend, Amanda,
  5. saying hysterically,
  6. "Tom, Tom, there's been a shooting,
  7. and they dragged me out of the theater.
  8. They wouldn't let me stay.
  9. I wanted to [stay],
    but they dragged me out."
  10. I say to Amanda,
  11. "Amanda, are you OK? Have you been hurt?"
  12. And she said no, that she was fine,
  13. that Alex had saved her life.
  14. I then say,
  15. "Amanda, where's Alex?"
  16. And she says, sobbing,
  17. "I don't know, we can't find him.
  18. They dragged me out of the theater.
  19. They made me leave.
  20. He was shot.
  21. I tried to wake him up,
    but I couldn't wake him up.
  22. He wouldn't get up.
  23. They dragged me away.
    I didn't want to leave him."
  24. And I say to Amanda,
  25. "The last time you saw Alex,
  26. was he bleeding?
  27. Did you have any of his blood on you?"
  28. And she cries, "Yeah, a lot,"
  29. and breaks down.
  30. Alex loved Amanda.

  31. And he was one of the most
    honorable men on earth,
  32. and at the age of 24,
  33. he had to make the decision
    to risk his life
  34. in order to ensure she would live.
  35. I knew in my heart if he couldn't get up,
  36. he was dead.
  37. I had just arrived

  38. the night before
  39. with my wife Caren
  40. and my youngest son
  41. for a week's vacation in Hawaii.
  42. We were literally
  43. 3,300 miles away.
  44. Caren and I frantically started
    calling his cell phone,
  45. to no avail.
  46. We left multiple messages.
  47. We then turned to the media.
  48. But all we could find
  49. was information on the murderer
  50. and his booby-trapped apartment.
  51. We tried calling
    the Aurora police station,

  52. but it was impossible to get an answer.
  53. But in hindsight, it was understandable.
  54. They were dealing with
  55. 12 dead, 70 injured,
  56. the carnage so bad,
  57. the police had to bring
    some of the victims to the hospitals
  58. in the backs of their police cars,
  59. because they had run out of ambulances.
  60. It was a horrific and chaotic scene.
  61. We would never see Alex again,

  62. his injuries so severe
  63. I had to shield even his mom
  64. from looking upon him,
  65. for fear that would be
    the lasting image of him in her mind.
  66. But you know who we would see
    again and again?

  67. The murderer.
  68. His pictures were everywhere.
  69. One article was six paragraphs long
  70. and featured his name 41 times.
  71. The media had made him famous.
  72. But my firstborn son, Alex,
  73. a hero,
  74. was absent from those initial reports.
  75. Caren and I immediately realized
    that there was something wrong

  76. with the way the media responds
    to these random mass shootings
  77. since Columbine.
  78. We started doing research,
  79. and we realized
  80. that if we could change
  81. the way the media reports,
  82. we could reduce the amount of shootings
  83. and save lives.
  84. (Applause)

  85. Let me explain.

  86. Almost every single random mass shooter
  87. has something in common.
  88. Can anybody guess what that is?
  89. They want notoriety.
  90. They want to be famous.
  91. In fact,
  92. these murderers
    are telling us this themselves.
  93. The Sandy Hook murderer
  94. kept a spreadsheet
  95. of previous mass murderers
    and their number of kills.
  96. The Orlando Pulse nightclub murderer
  97. called a local news station --
  98. during his attack! --
  99. and then stopped to check Facebook
    to see if he'd gone viral.
  100. The Parkland murderer
  101. recorded and posted
  102. a video
  103. stating,
  104. "When you see me on the news,
    you'll know who I am."
  105. The Aurora theater murderer
    told his psychiatrist
  106. that he recognized he couldn't
    make an impact on the world in science,
  107. but he could become famous
  108. by blowing people up.
  109. And most telling,
  110. the Umpqua Community College murderer
  111. wrote on his blog
    about a previous mass murderer,
  112. saying,
  113. "I've noticed that people like him
  114. are all alone and unknown,
  115. but when they spill a little blood,
  116. the whole world knows who they are."
  117. A man who was known by no one
    is now known by everyone,
  118. his face splashed across every screen,
  119. his name on the lips
  120. of everyone on the planet,
  121. all in one day.
  122. It seems like the more people you kill,
  123. the more you're in the limelight.
  124. These are just a few examples.
  125. I could go on and on.
  126. These murderers are telling us
    they want to be famous
  127. like the murderers before them,
  128. and the media continues to give them
    exactly what they seek:
  129. notoriety.
  130. The gun debate is very emotional,

  131. and our mental health issues
    are very complicated.
  132. Both will take time to correct.
  133. But to reduce the carnage,
  134. we don't need an act of Congress.
  135. What we need is an act of conscience
  136. on the producers
    and consumers of mass media
  137. to remove the reward of notoriety.
  138. (Applause)

  139. So to save lives,

  140. Caren and I launched "No Notoriety,"
  141. dedicated to challenging the media
  142. to protect our communities
  143. by adhering to these
    research-backed principles.
  144. One: report all the facts

  145. on the mindset,
  146. demographics
  147. and motivational profile
    of these shooters,
  148. but minimize their names and images,
  149. unless they're at large.
  150. Two: limit the use of the shooter's name

  151. to once per piece,
  152. never in the headlines
  153. and no pictures in prominent locations.
  154. And three --

  155. Three.
  156. (Laughter)

  157. I'm not good with numbers.

  158. (Laughter)

  159. Refuse to publish
    any self-serving material

  160. provided by the shooters.
  161. (Applause)

  162. To be clear:

  163. this is not an infringement
  164. on anyone's First Amendment rights.
  165. This is not censorship.
  166. We are merely asking the media
  167. to leverage guidelines
    they already have in place.
  168. For example,

  169. the media does not report
  170. on journalists that have been kidnapped
  171. in order to protect them.
  172. The media does not report
  173. the names and images
  174. of victims of sexual assault or suicide.
  175. These responsible journalistic practices
  176. protect public safety
  177. with zero impact
  178. on the public's right to know.
  179. Academic studies show

  180. that the average news consumer
  181. wants to hear less about the shooters.
  182. Instead,
  183. the media should elevate
    the names and images
  184. of the victims,
    both murdered and injured,
  185. the heroes
  186. and the first responders.
  187. They should --
  188. (Applause)

  189. They should promote data and analysis

  190. from experts on the fields
    of mental health and public safety.
  191. All the experts agree.

  192. The FBI,
  193. the International Police Association,
  194. the Major City Chiefs Association
  195. and A.L.E.R.T.,
  196. the law enforcement organization
    dedicated to training first responders
  197. to stop active shooters,
  198. all endorse the principles
    of No Notoriety.
  199. In fact, in 2014,
  200. the FBI started the "Don't Name Them"
    campaign in support of the idea.
  201. The American Psychiatric Association
    supports reducing and minimizing
  202. the identification of these shooters.
  203. The idea has gone worldwide,
  204. with the Prime Minister of New Zealand
  205. calling for no notoriety
  206. after the Christchurch shootings.
  207. But as much as we want
    the media to change,

  208. they are for-profit organizations.
  209. They won't change unless
    we hold them accountable.
  210. (Applause)

  211. The media makes their money

  212. from advertising
  213. based on the number of viewers and clicks.
  214. If we can reduce the number
    of viewers and clicks on any subject,
  215. the media will change
    the way they report on it.
  216. So the next time you see
    any media organization --

  217. print, digital, radio or television --
  218. gratuitously leveraging the names
    and images of these shooters,
  219. stop watching,
  220. stop listening,
  221. stop clicking,
  222. stop liking
  223. and stop sharing.
  224. Write to the producers,
  225. editors, station managers and CEOs
  226. of these news organizations.
  227. Take note of the advertisers
    who support those segments
  228. and write to their CEOs.
  229. Because together,
  230. we can push the media
    to act in the interest
  231. of public safety,
  232. not profits.
  233. It's too late for Alex,

  234. and it's too late for my family.
  235. But please don't join
    our club by inaction,
  236. the club nobody wants to join.
  237. The due's too high.
  238. Because it's not too late
  239. for people who aren't victims yet.
  240. We have the power
  241. to reduce random mass shootings.
  242. Let's use it.
  243. Thank you.

  244. (Applause)