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Should the Media Consider Ethics when Reporting Tragic Events?


The shocking stabbing of a 12-year girl in Waukesha by two of her friends has attracted media attention from around the world, largely for its connection to writings and a character on a horror fiction website.  The accused girls' names have been all over the news, as they stand charged in adult court for attempted murder.

Meanwhile, the story of the mass shooting in Santa Barbara, California, has raised concerns by some about the level of attention given to the murderer, who left a lengthy manifesto offering his rationale for the depraved act he was about to commit.

Both cases have sparked ethical discussions among reporters and editors, and also by the people who head and read news stories.  

"There are many, many good journalistic purposes behind the coverage of violent events," says Kelly McBride.  "As a journalist, you want to figure out which purpose you're trying to serve, and then really get to the heart of that particular purpose."

McBride is senior faculty in ethics at the Poynter Institute - a media training center and think tank in Florida.  McBride joined Lake Effect's Mitch Teich by phone and talked about why she believes are the ethical considerations the media ought to take into account as it sets about covering these stories.