When an armed student entered Parkrose High School in Portland earlier this month, Keanon Lowe was the hero of the day. The former college football star, who works at the school, subdued the gunman. No one was injured.
His story got the wide play it deserved. Lowe was interviewed on national television, and he received a standing ovation at Monday night’s NBA Western Conference Finals game.
But what struck me was the widespread sharing of the student’s name and photograph. I saw it all over Portland TV and in The Oregonian. The Columbian used the student’s name and image on an inside page of Sunday’s print edition. I even posted a story with his name, which I got from a police press release, after I saw our competitors had done so.
Looking back, I wonder if that was a mistake. A 2016 scholarly paper presented to the American Psychological Association by two faculty members at Western New Mexico University concluded that “media contagion” plays a role in encouraging mass shootings.
“Mass shootings are on the rise, and so is media coverage of them,” said one of the researchers, Jennifer B. Johnston, in a news release about the study. “At this point, can we determine which came first? Is the relationship merely unidirectional: More shootings lead to more coverage? Or is it possible that more coverage leads to more shootings?”