Forbes: The Media is an Accomplice in Public Shootings

Earlier this week a terrible tragedy once again fell upon a suburban community, and this time, someone has taken a strong position against those who have contributed – the media.

“Public shootings are a contagion. And the media are consistent accomplices in most every one of them.”

Joseph Grenny, in a contribution to Forbes, clearly points the finger at tabloid press whose highly publicized stories of deviant and dangerous behavior has been recognised as contributing to copycat incidents.

The media appropriately defends its right to participate fully in a marketplace of ideas. The risk of limiting free speech is clear and substantial. And yet, I believe when free speech leads to verifiable harm, it’s time to discuss limits. It’s time we found a way to balance the right to speak freely with the responsibility to influence ethically. It’s time we consider passing a law that requires the media to act with Stephen King’s level of responsibility – Joseph Grenny.

He is referring to an incident involving the famous novelist Stephen King and a novel he wrote which King asked to be withdrawn from shelves as it was apparently encouraging young people to cause violent crimes (Rage).

Even without the law, there exists a reasonable set of principles, values and editorial guidelines produced by the Global Reporting Initiative earlier this year. It’s Mediagri_logo Sector Supplement clearly sets the tone that a publication has responsibility for its content, and that the editorial team should be take special care in choosing their stories (MSS-Complete).

Taken a step further, this document could become a catalyst for litigation against those whom it might be claimed have published material that has contributed to this event.

In the UK we have already seen newspapers brought down by phone hacking – could this be the next step in the drawing of the lines between what is freedom of speech and what might be considered abuse of power.


About stephenking2012

In 2012 I volunteered to hold the position of Chair - Standards & Ethics Committee for the Middle East PR Association (@MEPRA_org). I have set up this account to assist in this effort. You may also like to follow my Blog or connect with me on LinkedIn. In any case, please do visit, and if you are not yet a member, please do sign up!
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