“Almost every single random mass shooter has something in common,” says Tom Teves. “They want notoriety – they want to be famous. In fact, it’s the only single common motivation.” The Teves family, and many other families who have experienced mass shooting tragedies, are challenging the media to adopt a stance of “no notoriety.” According to them, in order to stop gun violence, media coverage of mass shooting perpetrators needs to drastically change. Find out how Teves is making that happen.
Alex Teves is the Hero, Not His Killer
Where were you on July 12, 2012? What did you do? Were you at work, or maybe on a relaxing summer vacation? Do you even remember that day? Teves does. He had just arrived in Hawaii to start his family’s beach vacation when he received a call that would change his whole world.
The panicked voice on the other end of the line was Amanda, the girlfriend of Teves’ oldest son, Alex. There had just been a shooting at the Aurora movie theater they were in, and Alex didn’t survive. At 24-years-old, he put himself between the shooter and Amanda.
Tragically, Teves was not the only recipient of a call like the one from Amanda that day. The families of 12 others lost loved ones in that theater while 70 others were injured. Mass gun violence is a sensitive topic deeply rooted in political debates on gun control. However, still reeling from the loss of their son, Teves and his wife, Caren, noticed a simpler, media-specific problem: the portrayal of the shooter in the media.
Stop the Claim to Fame
“One article we read was just six paragraphs but it featured the shooter’s name 41 times. The media had made him famous. But my firstborn son Alex, a hero, was absent from their initial reports.” This vast discrepancy in notoriety, Teves believes, is the easiest way to help stop mass-casualty tragedies.
“These murderers are telling us that they want to be famous like the murderers before them—and the media continues to give them exactly what they want,” says Teves. “Notoriety!”
The evidence is there to prove his theory. The shooter at the Orlando Pulse nightclub checked Facebook during his crime to see if he had gone viral. Following the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a spreadsheet that belonged to the shooter was found that listed previous mass shooters and their number of kills.
Most remarkably, the shooter at Umpqua Community College said, “I’ve noticed that so many people like him are all alone and unknown, yet when they spill a little blood, the whole world knows who they are. A man who was known by no one is now known by everyone. His face splashed across every screen, his name across the lips of every person on the planet, all in the course of one day. Seems like the more people you kill, the more you’re in the limelight.”
The media attention shooters receive needs to stop.
Potential murderers seek the twisted fame previous shooters have received. Teves and his family recognized that the media was glorifying the wrong person when it came to the Aurora theater shooting and their son, Alex. Now, they’ve dedicated their lives to making sure no future shooters receive the credit they so desperately seek.
“Caren and I launched No Notoriety to challenge the media to protect our communities,” says Teves. This organization serves as a checks and balances system for the community to ensure that the media are reporting on mass-casualty events in a way that doesn’t credit or focus on the shooter.
The organization asks that the media stick to three simple guidelines when reporting:
- Report all of the facts about the mindset, demographic and motivational profile of the shooter, but downplay the name and likeness unless the individual is at-large
- Limit the use of the name to once per piece. NEVER use the shooter’s name in headlines and no photos of the shooter in any prominent locations
- Refuse to publish any self-serving materials created by the shooter
By focusing their reports on the facts of the events and the victims rather than the person responsible for the violence, the media can play a powerful role in depriving the shooter of the attention they wanted from committing the act in the first place.
How Can You Help?
The community’s role is to call out those articles that don’t adhere to these guidelines. “So, when you see any media organization (televisions, radio print or digital) gratuitously using the names and images of shooters, stop watching, stop listening, stop clicking, stop liking and stop sharing,” says Teves.
“Because together, we can push the media to act in the interest of public safety, not profits. And when they do, random mass shootings will decline – because we’ll have taken away the motivation that murderers care about most: fame.”
Help ensure that fame and notoriety are properly placed—with valiant people and real heroes.