The Globe and Mail is naming the shooter who killed 22 Canadians in a mass shooting in Nova Scotia in late April, public editor Sylvia Stead reported, despite complaints from readers.
“The argument against publishing the name of mass shooters or [perpetrators of] terrorist acts that claim lives is that the criminals responsible for the acts want notoriety, and we should not cave to this; rather, we should remember the names of those whose lives were so cruelly taken,” she wrote.
Stead explained that The Globe and Mail is naming the shooter and writing about him in order to help provide context about the shooting, but that the newspaper is also trying to focus on the victims. “News reports are part of the public record and the historical record,” Stead wrote. “However, it is best if his name is used sparingly, especially in headlines, and any decision to use his photo should be made with care.”
One misstep The Globe and Mail made, however, was using the word “passion” to describe the shooter’s “odd obsession with policing memorabilia,” Stead wrote. That mischaracterization was in a headline, and editors changed it and apologized within 15 minutes, she wrote.
“That’s not an excuse for the error. But to correct the initial story and headline almost immediately and later apologize and delete the tweet was the right thing to do,” according to Stead.
Stread advised, “To me, the key is to be careful and sensitive to the grief, keeping a focus on the heroes who tragically died, while giving the most complete understanding and reporting of what happened in the rampage.”
Stead told iMediaEthics, “I received a lot of positive email response from readers who said they appreciated The Globe’s work and understood that while it is necessary to name him, that doing it sparingly makes sense. They said they noticed The Globe coverage was downplaying him, but many also said we need to know more and the coverage needs to help us understand why this happened.”
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