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RGJ: half right, all wrong
by David Farside
Oct 28, 2013 | 1499 views | 1 1 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Last week’s editorial in the Reno Gazette Journal arguing for Sparks police to release the name of the young boy who shot two students, killed a teacher and then killed himself at Sparks Middle School, lowered the usually high standard of its editorial board and had no merit.  

They claimed the community has the right to know the name and identity of the juvenile so we can understand what led to the shooting. That is not true. We the public do not have to know the seventh-grader's name to recognize what led to the tragedy of murder and suicide.

Unlike the RGJ's thirst for tabloid news at all cost, Deputy Chief Tom Miller said the police department chose to withhold the boy's name out of respect for “his grieving parents.” Good for the Sparks Police Department. But the RGJ claims state law and our community’s right to know takes precedence and transcends the Sparks Police Department's sentiment in the investigation.

That’s not necessarily true.

In criminal cases involving minors, their names are not usually given to the public until the end of the investigation or at the time of booking. I would argue, in this particular case, Sparks police may have the right to withhold the child's name until the investigation is complete.  

The editorial goes on to say: knowing the shooter’s name as soon as possible is crucial to revealing the circumstances that led to the tragedy. They claim better understanding the boy’s motive will help the community heal sooner. That’s all well and good. But, as long as investigators, the school district and powers to be know the name of the shooter, the motive will be found and that’s really all that matters. Anyway, how will knowing his name help heal the community sooner? If anything, the healing process will take longer.

Last week, the RGJ officially became aware of the boy's name. Saturday’s paper had the first profile or so-called human interest article about the shooter. That will be followed by more profiling, interviews, human heart and emotional stories followed by the great gun debate and finally, the always standard headline question asked by tabloids: Are your children safe in schools?”    

We shouldn’t overlook the fact that a family lost their son in all of this. I’m sure they have the same questions as you and I. Keeping the family name temporarily confined within the investigation was the right thing to do. Allowing the family time to privately mourn, grieve and heal should have been what the RGJ would support. Instead, they chose the bottom line of profit over common sense.

The RGJ needed the family name of the shooter to keep the story going, to sensationalize the family name, create dissension and sell more newspapers. After five days of front page headlines and pictures of mourning and memorials, they needed some fresh print. What better way than to pressure the police for the name, follow it up with the profile and add another week of redundant coverage to increase circulation?  To some it may appear the RGJ was right in their demand for the child's name. In my opinion, they were all wrong.

David Farside is a Sparks resident political activist.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
November 20, 2013
I feel this story was more about bashing the RGJ then the subject matter it intended to convey.
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