Why the Daily Herald isn’t naming names

The Daily Herald

Last Monday morning, when the tragic news of the Las Vegas concert shooting was still unfolding, employees of Paddock Publications (including the Daily Herald) received the following companywide email:

We awoke as you probably did with the news of the horrific shooting in Las Vegas. With the shooter being named Paddock, we want to let you know Stephen Paddock is not related to this Paddock family. — Stu Paddock III and Bob Paddock, Jr.

The Daily Herald reported the name of the shooter, Stephen Paddock, on the first day of coverage. But for the rest of week, his name was rarely mentioned. In most stories (including the gripping account of a Bartlett couple who were caught in the gunfire and managed to escape unharmed), he was called simply “the gunman.”

The decision not to use his name in the newspaper or on dailyherald.com had nothing to do with the similarity of the company name, according to officials of Paddock Publications. It was in keeping with a longstanding policy not to repeat the name of any mass murderer over and over again. (The policy also includes an outright ban on the killer’s name ever appearing in a headline or his photo appearing after his initial identification.)

“We have no interest in helping to make him famous, no interest in helping to make his name a trending topic online,” read an editorial in Sunday’s Daily Herald headlined: “Let’s forget Las Vegas killer’s name.”

“This has been our practice in horrific cases like this for years. To a degree, it may be like spitting into the wind. Unless other media from around the country join in the same practice, the gunman may in death gain notoriety anyway. But if that’s the case, it will not be our doing, and it will happen without our participation.”

When it comes to carrying out the policy, editors know they walk a fine line: On one hand, they feel obliged to provide insight into who the gunman is and to give readers a sense of what could influence such crimes. But on the other hand, they try to do that without publishing unnecessary details that could result in humanizing him.

It’s further complicated by the way news gets disseminated digitally. While editors have control over what appears in print, it may be harder to enforce their edicts online. Material from wire services can turn up automatically on the Daily Herald’s website that may not always comport with the paper’s own guidelines.

Here are additional excerpts from Sunday’s Daily Herald editorial:

“Our philosophy has little if anything to do with the anger we feel about the atrocities the Las Vegas shooter committed, although to be sure, we like most of you are angry.

“Nor is it a signal that we lack sympathy for the mental health issues that likely were involved and that need more generally to be addressed in our society. But the kind of troubled mind that would consider such an atrocity is the kind of troubled mind that also would fantasize about the attention. We want to contribute in no way to such fantasies. We want to contribute in no way to more atrocities.

“We want no copycats.

“We want other troubled minds to seek help rather than glorification.

“We have a responsibility as a news organization to exercise restraint in how we cover these tragic stories and how we present them. Every news organization has a responsibility to exercise that restraint.

“We urge them to do so.

“Our coverage also has an obligation to help shine light on the causes of these mass slayings. That’s necessary so society has a better understanding of ways to combat them. But that exploration can we done without naming the killers, without turning them into celebrities, without pouring out personal details that are unrelated to motive.

“And it can be done without personal photos. That’s one more thing you won’t see in the newspaper: a photo of the killer.

“We published a small and low-key photo with the first-day coverage. That’s the last photo of him we’ll ever publish.”