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Oregon sheriff's decides not to name shooter, sparks debate
After a local sheriff chose not to identify the man who shot and killed nine people at an Oregon community college, many are debating if naming the suspect glorifies crime or sets the record straight. - photo by Chandra Johnson
Adam Lanza, James Holmes and Dylann Roof.

These names are synonymous with some of the most notorious mass shootings in U.S. history, and this week, in the wake of another shooting at an Oregon community college that left nine people dead, some in the media are debating whether or not names should be associated with such incidents at all.

I will not give him (the shooter) the credit he probably sought prior to this horrific and cowardly act," Oregon Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin told the press after learning the details of the college shooting.

"To use the name of the suspected killer, who killed himself when found by police, would be to give him his wish, they say to make him notorious," The Christian Science Monitor reported, noting that recent studies about any possible correlation between media coverage of mass shootings and copycat crimes were unable to prove such a relationship existed.

While no one wants to glorify mass shootings, which are rapidly approaching 1,000 since the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in 2012, Paste Magazine argued following the murder of two TV journalists in Virginia in August that avoiding the reality of such situations isn't the answer.

"Avoidance, somehow, has become heroic as though depriving a dead man of attention is a panacea that will stop future tragedy in its tracks," Paste reported. "Its a wonderful fantasy."

The Poynter Institute also wrote an article decrying leaving out the names of mass shooters, saying that "its easy and convenient for politicians to beat the press up by accusing them of glorifying a bad person. Responsible reporting is the antidote."

But even some journalists believe reporting an assailant's name is part of the problem, like Fox News' Megyn Kelly, who took CNN anchor Don Lemon to task on Twitter. Lemon said on the air that, regrettably, revealing the shooters name was his job.

"My friend says "we (TV news) must identify him b/c that is our job." No. Print media can," Kelly tweeted. "TV gives infamy he prob desired. Don't!"