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GOP lawmakers’ proposal tells media what to say in news on mass shootings

New York City newspapers. (Richard B. Levine/Sipa USA/TNS)
August 18, 2023

U.S. Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.) and U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) have proposed a congressional resolution to call on the media to “voluntarily and responsibly” change the way it reports on mass shootings across the country.

The proposed resolution claims that “irresponsible and sensationalistic” reporting can lead to a “media contagion effect,” which encourages mass shootings by giving criminals “the notoriety and infamy they desire.”

“Media coverage of a mass public murderer routinely outweighs the coverage of the victims,” the resolution asserts, suggesting that “many mass public murderers have researched, studied and idolized past acts of violence using the sensationalistic coverage provided by many media outlets.”

The resolution requests the news media to avoid naming or publishing photos of “suspected public murderers” and refrain from promoting “ideology or public policy change.”

The proposal would encourage the media to cover mass shootings and public murders with a “similar sensitivity” as suicide, noting that the media’s “contagion effect may encourage additional tragedies.”

Rather than inadvertently giving attention to mass shooters or mass murderers, the resolution encourages the media to prioritize the coverage of first responders, law enforcement, or any heroic acts of bystanders.

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“There is an epidemic of evil people motivated by perverse beliefs to wreak havoc on the lives of innocent people,” Ogles said. “Just a few short months ago, the Covenant School in Nashville was robbed of six precious lives in a horrific act of violence.”

“The media was quick to report on the incident, combing for every gritty detail that could be uncovered about the shooter and (their) motivation,” he continued. “This resolution simply asks the media to do their work responsibly and stop sensationalizing the despicable acts of mass murderers.”

Lee noted that research has revealed the effect “irresponsible coverage” can have in creating a “dangerous cycle of copycat killers.” As a result, he said the proposed resolution supports a “more balanced and ethical approach” to the media’s coverage of large-scale tragedies.

“By refusing to give mass murderers the attention they desire, we can effectively combat the ‘media contagion effect’ that fuels more violence,” Lee said.