The Brazilian Press Needs To Learn How To Cover Mass Shootings

Brazil needs to learn what the Americans figured out a long time ago -- that the protagonists of such episodes are not the killers, but the victims

Nelson de Sá
São Paulo

Since the Columbine school shooting in 1999, the American press is constantly reviewing how to cover mass shootings. Brazil, where only more recently such tragedies started to happen, seems to be still stuck in Columbine.

Author Dave Cullen, who wrote one of the most important books about the Columbine shooting, released another volume in 2018, this time about Parkland. He sees improvement between the two episodes, especially in two instances: during Parkland, the press gave the least attention possible to the shooters and avoided giving simplistic explanations on their motives.

During Columbine, he wrote, newspapers and TVs "trumpeted the narrative of two lonely pariahs, victims of bullying taking revenge. It's a strong story, but completely fictional, with elements that later would be proven untrue.

From what I could see in a little over a day, press coverage of the Suzano shooting is still in Columbine. TV crime shows are using their three-decade-long tradition of exploiting suicides, with hosts that keep on and on in their detailed analysis of the released surveillance footage from the school.

Like what happened with covering suicides, once forbidden or done as little as possible so to avoid copycats, the constant reproduction of footage from mass shootings became more widespread in the last 25 years, first with the web and then with social media.

School counselor Marilena Ferreira Umezo, 59, one of the victims from the Suzano school shooting - Screenshot/Facebook

In the US, many digital outlets started to follow the editorial standards of broadcast TV. But Brazilian broadcasters lack these kinds of standards, to begin with.

Maybe the biggest thing the US media learned and one that Brazil still lacks is the conscience of who are the main characters in mass shootings. It should always be the victims, instead of the killers.

Translated by NATASHA MADOV

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