Have Media Learned A Lesson About Responsible Reporting?
Yesterday, a man walked into a Sikh temple outside Milwaukee where worshipers had gathered and opened fire. A story in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is headlined "FBI: Motive in Oak Creek Sikh temple shooting unclear." The Washington Post's headline is " Sikh temple shooter was military veteran who lived nearby." There we learn:
The man who allegedly shot and killed six people inside a Sikh temple south of Milwaukee on Sunday was a military veteran from a neighboring community, Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards said Monday morning.
The name of the assailant, who was fatally shot by a police officer in the temple parking lot after he allegedly shot a different police officer at close range, was not released. But CNN, CBS, Fox news and other outlets, citing multiple law enforcement authorities, identified him as Wade Michael Page, 40.
Edwards told CNN that the shooter had a military background and lived nearby. He said police were investigating reports that the shooter, who was white, may have harbored extreme racial views. But he cautioned that none of those allegations had been confirmed.
As someone who has been reading everything I can get my hands on with this shooting (it's the reporter in me, I can't help it), I've noticed that some media outlets -- not all, mind you -- have been a bit more cautious about running with the only motivation that has even been suggested. I think that's a good improvement. It's OK to mention that the police chief is investigating reports that the shooter is racist because the police chief has said as much. But with nothing confirmed, it's also good to not make that the headline.
Based on my own research, I'm pretty confident that what we witnessed was a violent, hateful racist who gunned down Sikhs because of their ethnicity. But I'm still glad that the media are being somewhat cautious before they run with that angle.