2. Covering an Active Shooter

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Hudes had found himself in the precarious position of gathering information on a developing story about a mass shooting, with scattered details coming in from panicked locals and a distracted police force.

Nate Carlisle, a reporter with the Salt Lake Tribune who has covered several mass shootings, wrote for the Poynter Institute recommending that journalists stay calm and don’t rush to publish material, regardless of how “breaking” the story is.

“Misinformation abounds after a mass shooting,” Carlisle said. “If you rush stories into the newspaper or broadcast before it is verified, you are guaranteed to have something wrong.” [1] Carlisle also recommended journalists avoid “playing detective.”

“Details are great for storytelling,” Carlisle said, “but there are details, and there are wastes of time. Find the facts you need to create a narrative or tell the most pertinent information and don’t dwell on the small things.” [2]

Carlisle also warned against constructing a narrative for motive early on, saying “mental health professionals will tell you there’s no one reason why someone ‘snaps.’ Gunmen can be complex characters. Be careful about latching onto a single aspect of the gunman as an explanation for why he did it.” [3]

The Justin Bourque Facebook profile Hudes found included a photo of two armed men in hunting gear and several posts that included violent language. [4]

Hudes was also unable to verify that Facebook’s Justin Bourque was the same Justin Bourque being hunted by the RCMP. The man may have resembled the photo of the shooter being circulated by the RCMP on social media, but was that enough to go on?

[1] Nate Carlisle, “Tips for covering a mass shooting,” Poynter, Nov. 23 2009.

[2] Nate Carlisle, “Tips for covering a mass shooting,” Poynter, Nov. 23 2009.

[3] Nate Carlisle, “Tips for covering a mass shooting,” Poynter, Nov. 23 2009.

[4] Justin Bourque’s Facebook page, accessed December 2, 2016, https://www.facebook.com/justin.bourque.5682

Next: 3. Libel and the Newsroom

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