Stephen Hunter is the Pulitzer Prize-winning former film critic of the Washington Post and author of the Bob Lee Swagger series of novels, whose latest entrant — The Third Bullet — is forthcoming next month. Steve writes to comment with respect to the Newtown massacre:
It seems odd that in the orgy of recrimination, faux solemnity and glycerine tears of the past few days on the issue of “What can we do?” no one has mentioned something that is A.) Immediate, B) Cheap and C) Bound to be effective and at the least, D) Certainly worth trying. That is if the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, NBC, CBS, CNN and Fox–Big Media, USA– were to announce, jointly, the following voluntary policy: “As of January 1, 2013, we will not publish or broadcast the name, photograph or background of anyone who attempts or commits a mass murderer of the active shooter variety. Further, we will work within our professional culture to ‘enforce’ this rule until it becomes a cultural norm. Names of killers will only be acknowledged at the time of adjudication or the issuance of a posthumous investigative finding.”
No, you can’t keep the name and identity secret in this time of Internet and text, but you can certainly change the culture so that the killer doesn’t become a week-long rock star under the auspices of corporate media 24/7 overkill. It’s time for the media to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.