“I’d like to see the emotional tone stick as closely to the tragic as possible, and to avoid emotional arousal of a kind that’s stimulating,” Dietz says. For Dietz, emotional arousal means sounds of sirens, images of ambulances, flashing lights, aerial shots of first responders and fleeing kids, quick edits and bodycount supremacy — things that excite and upset, psychologically and physically. “The second thing I’d like to see done is to reduce or eliminate identifiers of the shooters outside of the affected area and to reduce biographical information about the shooter. No amount of fulfillment of morbid curiosity is worth more lives.”
There is debate about whether media coverage of mass killings inspires copycats, but Dietz believes the phenomenon is real. “One after another, mass murderers to whom I’ve spoken have said so. They can trace which mass murders in the news got them going. Or they make comments on this in their diaries or journals, or in their writings.”
The invasive, round-the-clock, routinely perpetrator-fixated news also further traumatizes the immediate community, Dietz says. It can easily trigger trauma in people living with the legacy of other violent acts — and there is even evidence that people with no such history can experience symptoms of trauma just by watching it. The way we cover mass killings is simply, and obviously, not good for human beings, Dietz says.