Some more arguments for why media outlets should use the name of the killer — Chris Harper Mercer — in their coverage of yesterday’s massacre at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore.: A name provides at least some hints about the person; it might help yield tips for law enforcement from people who hear the name on broadcasts; in enables Web searches. It also may serve to expose certain presumptions and prejudices, as a telling moment on Fox News last night suggests.
In his breaking-news coverage of the shootings on Thursday night, Fox News host Sean Hannity welcomed Los Angeles-based correspondent Trace Gallagher to discuss the state of knowledge regarding the latest U.S. murder calamity. The two discussed the shooter’s bizarre approach to his rampage, as he allegedly asked people whether they were “Christian or not.” Those who answered yes were shot in the head; others, in the leg or elsewhere.
Hannity lasered on this dimension. “Do we know if there is anything religious or religious-oriented or any type of affiliation on his part that gives us any idea of maybe some — some faith he may be aligned with?” asked Hannity. No, replied Gallagher. Mercer’s social media profile was thin, he said, and there was not a great deal of information online about him. Still, Hannity continued, there has to be some religious dimension if he was asking about Christians.
While conceding the religious aspect, Gallagher said the picture remains unclear: “The question is what is the component? I mean, his name doesn’t bring anything to mind, where he be — he doesn’t sound like he’s Muslim.”
Who said anything about Muslims?
Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.