The Federal Commission on School Safety’s final report this week contains discussions of two areas where the media and mass school shootings intersect.
One is a relatively brief chapter on the potential effects of violent entertainment on school tragedies, something that federal reports in the wake of other major incidents have also addressed. The other is about the effects of press coverage of mass shootings.
“This is the first federal report to examine the issue of media coverage as it relates to the perpetuation of violence,” says the report, a point reiterated by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in a conference call with reporters on Dec. 18.
In its report, the commission states: “Press coverage of school shootings is often sensational, which can exacerbate the trauma of those directly and indirectly affected and potentially incite successive events.” It says that reports indicate the alleged shooter in the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., has “received letters of encouragement, greeting cards, and even money in prison,” all as a result of his high public profile based on media coverage.
Although the commission’s report names the Parkland suspect, Nikolas Cruz, in footnotes, it does not name him in the main text, a move evidently in keeping with one of its principal recommendations that media outlets adopt the “No Notoriety” campaign.
That campaign was founded by Tom and Caren Teves after their son Alexander C. Teves was shot and killed in the 2012 mass shooting in a Aurora, Colo., movie theater that resulted in 12 dead and 70 wounded.