Running Rodger's video when covering Isla Vista shooting

May 31, 2014

Many news organizations ran Eliott Rodger's YouTube video as part of their coverage of the Isla Vista shootings. How is that different than publishing a suicide note? Missouri School of Journalism professors Mike McKean, Jim Flink and Amy Simons discuss the national and local media's response. 

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The two student-run newspapers at University of California, Santa Barbara, took opposite approaches to the shootings by a fellow student on Friday, May 23.

Reporters and editors of The Nexus, the independent student newspaper on campus, began publishing continuously at 10:57 p.m. Friday – an hour after the first report of shots fired.

The student-government financed paper The Bottom Line posted a single item two days after the shooting. The piece was an op-ed entitled “Why We Have Not Yet Published Anything on the Isla Vista Shooting.”

The article said the paper had not published an article yet because it was trying to adhere to the Society of Professional Journalist code of ethics and "minimize harm."

After extensive discussions among our Editorial Staff, advisor and alumni, we have decided to not immediately publish an article on the recent tragedy in our community of Isla Vista to minimize the emotional harm for our reporters, photographers and multimedia journalists. Before we are journalists, we are Gauchos and feel we need our time to mourn, process and recover from this senseless violence. 

The Bottom Line's editorial board posted a response to the op-ed on Wednesday, May 28. It said the original article did not accurately explain why the paper had waited to cover the shootings. Instead, the board said the paper wanted to make sure it had the necessary facts before publishing, therefore avoiding "sensationalism and fear-mongering."