Covering a Shooter’s Wife


This morning NBC News, on its website, featured a quote from the wife of yesterday’s “alleged Fort Hood shooter” as a breaking news headline (see above). Though it may be accurate, it calls to mind other instances in which the media—desperate to get their hands on any bit of information they can—seem to insensitively attack other victims of terrible crimes. For example, in last year’s Boston Marathon bombing case, the media scrutinized Katherine Russell, widow of Tamerian Tsarnaev. At that point, Russell herself—although she was interviewed by authorities—had not been named as a “person of interest,” so the fact that the media followed her so closely seemed uncalled for.

In today’s example, it would seem logical that the wife of the alleged gunman in yesterday’s shooting would not be feeling well and would have been talking to police all night. Was it necessary to report this, let alone as breaking news? Should the wife of the suspect, identified as Ivan Lopez, be entitled to any amount of privacy? How should she be covered by journalists, if at all?

Editor’s Note: The graphic above is a re-creation of the breaking news banner on NBC News’ website. By the time I got around to publishing this post, the original banner had vanished and I was left with a very low resolution screen shot. This re-creation is accurate except for its largely rectangular orientation.

One thought on “Covering a Shooter’s Wife

  1. Well Jeffrey, you’re in the journalism field so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that this sort of thing is now evidently accepted as ‘journalism’. Sad, but true. If there’s nothing to report, perhaps an in-depth biography piece on the cat lady across the street who may have seen the shooter leave his house every morning as he went to work. The fact that her old tomcat never like that guy is, of course, perfectly relevant….

    Your comments trigger a recollection of the cynical thoughts I had during the early period of the search for Malaysian 370… CNN was running around the clock coverage and bringing the viewers ‘breaking news’. A bit of a stretch of course, as nobody knew anything about the whereabouts of that plane at that time (they still don’t if we’re honest). ‘Breaking News’ was nothing more than conspiracy theories and the uncorroborated opinions of ‘experts’ in the field. CNN is nothing more than fodder for Jon Stewart today… but I digress…

    Perhaps this is because we, the consumers of ‘news’, support and expect 24/7 coverage of just about everything. What happened to the days when your favourite sitcom was interrupted by a ‘breaking news’ report that was short and to the point… and actually relevant? “Pictures at 11…” is now just the title of an old Robert Plant album.

    For some reason the Boston Marathon bombing also comes to mind… and the clip where the reporter commented on how quiet the streets were… “It’s as if a bomb dropped somewhere…” Seriously, where do they find these people and what sort of test do they have to fail to get the job? It’s right here if you haven’t seen it…:

    The fact that you write this blog suggests to me that you’re not overjoyed with the state of journalism today. Teaching your students that the facts SHOULD get in the way of a good story is the lesson for Day One…And every day after that until graduation. In my opinion anyway!

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