Canada’s Sun News Network announced that, moving forward, it will not be naming the man who is accused of murdering three Canadian police officers and injuring two other officers in Moncton, New Brunswick on June 4.
The 24-year-old in question has been charged with three counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder, according to the BBC. There was a 30-hour lockdown of much of Moncton during the manhunt to find the suspect, CBC reported.
Now that the suspect has been charged, Sun News said, “We will no longer name him and we will no longer show you his pictures because we feel at this network it is more important not to let him go down in a blaze of glory and it’s more important to give the attention to the victims and the families.”
iMediaEthics asked Sun News for clarification about any other exceptions to not naming the shooter. “Since the accused’s capture, we have not used his name nor shown his face,” Sun News’ Wolf told iMediaEthics. “During the manhunt, we of course provided viewers with that information, as we regarded that as a public duty.”
This is the first time Sun News has decided to not name a shooter. “Last week’s murder of three police officers in Moncton, New Brunswick was the catalyst for this decision,” Sun News executive producer Matt Wolf told iMediaEthics by e-mail. “The shootings in Moncton obviously hit especially close to home.”
“That said, we had discussed the idea during previous mass shooting incidents in the United States,” he added. “A few US TV personalities have adopted this policy previously (ex. Megyn Kelly, Anderson Cooper, etc), but we think we’re the first to adopt a network wide policy. This idea has also been floated in articles, columns, etc. following some previous mass shooting.”
A June 6 editorial on Sun News’ website, “Sun News Network will not use New Brunswick killer’s name,” explained the decision to readers, and listed an exception to the rule. The exception would be reporting on court proceedings involving him when it would be incredibly awkward to not name the person.
The article on the Sun News website noted that reporting on the details of the killer’s life is “easy” but not necessarily right.
“It’s easy to report on the life of the killer, to scour his deranged Facebook page, to speculate about motive, but doing so could actually encourage the perception that his heinous acts are somehow justified,” the editorial said.
Sun News explained it didn’t want to be “setting the stage for future mass killings” or copy cats by paying undue news coverage and attention to the shooter.
“As this is a major story, we will of course cover future revelations, but on a case-by-case basis,” Sun News’ Wolf told iMediaEthics by e-mail. “We will maintain the policy of not showing his face or providing his name while consciously considering whether or not specific angles could provide the notoriety or perceived justification a shooter might seek.”
In an on-air segment, Sun News expanded on the decision and explained that Sun News did name the suspect before he was apprehended.
“At the time of the police hunt, the alleged gunman…we talked about his name, his Facebook page, we also showed you his picture. That’s because it was an active investigation in the public’s interest to name him,” Sun News’s Alex Pierson said.
Ray Heard, a former news director, discussed the decision in the on-air segment with Pierson, pointing out that in these mass shootings, people remember the killer, and not the victims because of the coverage.
So, is Sun News trying to counter this by devoting more airtime to reporting on who the victims were?
“Yes, absolutely,” Wolf told iMediaEthics. “We have already made a specific effort to discuss the victims.”
He added that Sun News has “received an overwhelmingly positive response” from the public to its decision against naming the shooter. “Sun News hopes that our decision can spark a greater debate, since we are unfortunately likely to see future mass shootings, albeit primarily in the United States as opposed to Canada,” he said.
See the full on-air segment below.
Hat Tip: Conseil de Presse Quebec