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Kim Walsh-Childers Comments on the Impact of News Coverage of Tragedies in the U.S.

Kim Walsh-Childers, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications Journalism professor, is quoted in “Hard News: When Journalists Cover Tragedy” posted on on Jan. 26.

The story focuses on National News Literacy Week, a week dedicated to understanding how journalism happens and how it impacts both the people that consume it and those that produce it. This year, the focus is also on how the nation is dealing with multiple mass shootings and the news coverage the incidents receive.

Kim Walsh-Childers

According to Walsh-Childers, “I’m seeing more and more stories of either the gunman is named one time and never again, or in which the shooter was not named at all. I would say that there are circumstances in which the public does need to know. Certainly, if the shooter has not been killed or has not killed himself or has not been arrested, then there is a good argument to be made not only for using the shooter’s name, but also using a photograph of some kind.”

Through her research, Walsh-Childers has found that ensuring how the victim is covered is important to some families, but there is not a one-size-fits-all answer.

“It is incredibly painful and harmful to those family members when their loved ones are essentially ignored and their pain goes unreported,” she said. “Yeah, it is a real dilemma. This is not an easy thing for journalists to have to deal with. I always tell my students there are no easy ’10 rules for being an ethical journalist.’ It’s hard work.”

She adds, “As an industry, journalists have been critical of our coverage of other controversial topics in the past, and now is a time to re-evaluate once again. News organizations have changed the way they covered suicides. There was a growing body of evidence that the way we traditionally covered suicide was causing harm. There’s also a growing body of evidence the way news organizations have traditionally covered mass shootings is causing harm, and therefore it is time for a change.”


Posted: January 30, 2023
Category: College News
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