The brutal murder of Alison Parker and Adam Ward was splashed across the front pages of numerous UK papers
The world was left reeling after witnessing the shooting of a young reporter and cameraman live on air in the U.S. state of Virginia. News of the horrific incident spread like wildfire across social media yesterday and today’s papers could talk of little else. In a sickening twist to an already tragic event, the murder of Alison Parker and Adam Ward was filmed by the shooter who posted the disturbing footage on Facebook before turning the gun on himself. But now numerous UK tabloid and broadsheet newspapers have made the controversial decision to put screenshots from the first person video on their front pages today, sparking outrage from the British public. “The Sun is disgusting. It’s hard to believe the editor thought it was the right way to cover the #VirginiaShooting” tweeted @CllrTomHayes. “I’d really rather my kids didn’t go to the shops tomorrow and see The Sun’s front page. This is not the way to cover the #VirginiaShooting” tweeted @GillianGMartin. “The Daily Star, Sun and Mirror should be utterly ashamed of themselves having the moment of shooting as their front page. Utterly horrible.” Tweeted @gedhoff.
In total, six of the biggest newspapers in the country chose to put an image of a woman’s last moments alive on their front page, some of them even including the chilling image of the gunman’s hand pointing the pistol into her terrified face. At what point did it become acceptable to plaster such a graphic image across the newsstands? Did it begin with the ritual beheadings of ISIS hostages last summer? Or does it go further back to the photographs of the fatal car crash that took Princess Diana’s life? The UK didn’t publish them – and in fact, shamed the foreign publications that did. So when did we become so desensitized to the images on our screens – be they on computer, TV or phone – that we started thinking it was acceptable to use such a horrific image to sell newspapers?
When it comes to covering fatal shootings such as the Columbine tragedy or Sandy Hook, numerous psychologists have warned that certain kind of media coverage can spark copycat crimes. News outlets have been advised not to focus on the gunman or even release their name as there is a serious danger of inadvertently creating an anti-hero.
One thing is clear: Murder should never be presented as entertainment – and to do so speaks to the very worst of 21st century living. Were the papers right to use those images? Let us know what you think.
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