Covering mass murders not an easy task for journalists; EIJ16 to offer session in NOLA

By Ireal James, SPJ Region 3 intern

Mass shooting flowers

Flowers left in remembrance for victims of violence are often left at the crime scene or close by.

With the brutalization of victims throughout the country, a discussion on mass murders and its steady coverage seems all too appropriate to ignite in the community of journalism. As professionals, reporters want to talk about how to cover such tragedies and unfortunately the possibility of recurring killing sprees in this country.

The SPJ Excellence in Journalism 2016 (EIJ16) conference to be held Sept. 18-20, 2016, in New Orleans, Louisiana, will host a session entitled “How Well Does The Media Cover Mass Murders’” in an effort to discuss the role journalists have in the coverage of mass killings.

Dori Zinn photo

Dori Zinn, SPJ Florida president

“Part of our work as journalists and the code of ethics is to minimize harm, and I think that this is something that this group (SPJ) actually stands for,” said SPJ Florida Professional Chapter President Dori Zinn.

Zinn is the organizer of the “Mass Murder” session along with web editor and freelance writer Christiana Lilly, who also serves as the SPJ Florida Chapter’s vice president.

“We need to bring up a session on how they (professionals and students) can be better journalists,” said Lilly.

Panelists for the session include co-founder of No Notoriety, Tom Teves, as well as SPJ Ethics Chair and medical No Notoriety logoreporter for Reuters Health, Andrew Seaman. No Notoriety states on their website that the organization challenges the media, “calling for responsible media coverage for the sake of public safety when reporting on individuals who commit or attempt acts of ‘rampage mass

Andrew Seaman

Andrew Seaman

violence.’”No Notoriety believes in depriving violent-like-minded people with celebrity and media spotlight they seem to crave.

Teves is the father of Alex Teves, a victim of the 2012 Colorado Massacre, where a dozen moviegoers were shot and killed by a gunman in Aurora, Colorado.

The EIJ16 session continues the mass shooting conversation Zinn moderated at the ACP/CMA National College Media Convention in Austin last year, where Teves and others were speakers.

Lilly said this particular conversation will affect not only the journalism community but will also spur opinions from the public.

Christiana Lilly mug

Christiana Lilly, SPJ Florida vice president

“Even though it’s impacting media and how we do our jobs — because we’re still public with what we do, it does influence the general public,” Lilly said.

She said she hopes the discussion will continue after the conference. “I’m hoping that people after this (session) hear the general perspective and hear what no notoriety stands for, that it’ll be a conversation that will pick back up… it’s something that I would want to talk about with other people.”

To attend the SPJ EIJ16 conference and participate in the conversation of media’s coverage of mass killings, register at  Excellence in Journalism.org.

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