My colleague Al Tompkins has written about the journalistic imperative of using names whenever we can, including the names of mass murderers. To withhold those names in the hopes of not romanticizing the killer – and not inspiring demented copycats – is an abdication of responsibility by the journalist. We need to know everything we can about the people who terrorize society – and that begins with their names.
I stand with Al on that opinion and would add another layer to his argument in the form of this sidebar: Withholding the name of the killer may have the opposite of the intended effect.
My argument comes not just from the journalism tradition of naming, but from a much larger cultural tradition in which naming is seen as a source of power.… Read more