Journalism and Social Media: What Could Have Saved Ryan Lanza From Unneeded Publicity

I graduated with a dual major in Journalism/Public Relations and General Communications. I spent hours upon hours studying media law, communication law, and how to fact check information. Granted, the social media realm has exploded and completely transformed the way that news travels, and people and information are able to be found within seconds due to a lack of privacy on the individual’s part, but it seems like the news and journalism in general is slacking. In order to get on top, they announced that the brother of the shooter was a mass murderer. The poor brother didn’t even know what was going on, had no clue his mother was dead and that his brother had killed two dozen people. He had no clue that his name would be forever tarnished and that people would he calling him a sicko, a disgrace, and other nasty things that were simply not true, all because there wasn’t enough care to double check the information. Granted, the shooter was carrying a second ID, a duplicate of his brother, but simply refraining from saying the name of the person until his identity was CONFIRMED could have saved his brother from being associated with a mass murderer and a TON of unneeded publicity.

I’m all for timely news. I was sitting at my desk with an ear bud in all day Friday listening to the gut wrenching details as the news unfolded-and my humanness got the best of me. I was Googling names, faces, schools, trying to find the mother who was claimed to be a teacher, trying to find the families of the victims, trying to find any information I could just to see the lives and connect people to the situation, because I knew it was tragic and this would be a time I would remember for years to come. But I was more ashamed as time went on because of the lack of efficiency connected with the journalists, news reports and more.

Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand that he had a bad ID, but checking the system for drivers licenses and school IDs, finding the father or finding a friend, and a number of other options would have saved the shooter’s brother, Ryan, from unneeded publicity. He did nothing wrong, but all of America and countries around the world will always associate his name with the Connecticut shootings on Friday Dec 14th, 2012.

As soon as the name of the “shooter” was announced, Ryan Lanza, I admit that I went straight to Facebook. I wanted to see if he looked like a mass murderer. (I know, I know–humanness again.) The page was a normal Facebook profile at the time. Since then it appears to have been removed and a public figure profile set up instead. I feel bad for the guy. He did nothing wrong. He lost his mother and a brother the same day as many people lost moms, and many more lost children in a tragic way.

What could have saved Ryan Lanza from unneeded publicity?

-Upstanding Journalism.

-Truth before Timeliness.

-Guidelines and Rules that Regulate Publishing the Name of a Mass Murderer.

-People THINKING before blasting some poor person and word vomiting all over their social media walls and profiles.

I feel for the Lanza family. Other than changing their name and continuing under a different life, I don’t see how they can live a peaceful life again. Luckily many are feeling for that family as well, knowing that they lost people as well. Even if one of them was the shooter. I thank the father of a girl that lost her life that day for standing up and saying that he felt for the family of the shooter just as he felt for all of the families. It added an element of realism.

And I admit I’m just as much of a human as everyone else. I have been Googling names and looking at images of the families since the news broke. The image of the sister on the phone crying as she is learning news of her sister who was tragically killed while protecting her students by hiding them in cabinets and closets and then telling them her students were in the gym is by far the most emotional image for me. You can see she is so heartbroken. That is one name I Googled. I found an image of her, her young sister (20s) and their siblings or family. It’s such a tragedy. I know we will hear stories about the families of the victims, the heroes that saved the lives of many many children, and the days leading up to the shooting for weeks to come.

I knew that Christmas 2012 would be different this year, but I never knew why. It’s because we will all be treasuring our families a little more, hugging little ones a little tighter, and relishing in all that is family. And trying to ignore the news and politics screaming for gun control, gun regulations, cops in schools, school lock down procedures, and the blocking of off-kilter organizations such as Westboro Baptist Church. (Which is a rant for another day-they are as FAR from Christianity as the east if from the west.)

Video on the topic of Journalism and Sandy Hook Elementary:,0,1651738.story

*If you noticed, I did not use the shooters name. A friend’s husband mentioned how he felt that mass murderers should not have their names announced, and I completely agree with this. So since it has already been announced and by doing so defamed his brother’s image and name for many years to come, I will not take part in repeating his name. If you know it, great. If you don’t I’m sure Google can help. Please respect my choice by not commenting with his name in the future. Thanks.


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