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Mass Shooting Journalism

Mass Shooting Journalism

In the wake of the shooting, residents held a candlelight vigil/struggled to make sense of the tragedy....

A New Technique for Writing an All-too-familiar Story

A Modest Proposal for Newsrooms: E-Z Story Template for the Next Mass Murder

(Dateline here) The nation awoke to news of another mass shooting today after a gunman killed _____ people and wounded _____ at a (A: church/B: school/C: theater/D: mall/E: business) in the town of F: _____, (add state, if not a major city as defined by the AP Stylebook).

The event was the worst mass shooting (since Las Vegas/since Orlando/since Virginia Tech/since Sandy Hook/ever in the United States). The victims ranged in age from _____ to _____.

Authorities say the gunman, identified as (G: _____), burst into the (full and proper name of A:/B:/C:/D/E:) armed with a (semi-automatic assault rifle/handgun/multiple weapons) and opened fire on the victims as (they prayed/sat at their desks/watched the movie “____”/shopped/huddled in their cubicles). Authorities said _____ rounds were fired.

‘It Was a Slaughter’ *

“I thought it was firecrackers until it I realized people all around me were falling and dying,” said _____, who escaped the hail of gunfire with minor injuries but whose (wife/husband/brother/sister/girlfriend/boyfriend/friend) was (wounded/killed) by the gunman. *

Police received the first call of an active shooter at _____  (a.m./p.m.), about _____ minutes after the first shots were fired. Officers arrived at the scene _____ minutes later.

Authorities say G: (was killed in an exchange of gunfire with the first officers on the scene/was killed after a standoff with police/appeared to have killed himself/may have been fatally injured by gunfire from a (neighbor/passerby) who responded with (his/her) own weapon after hearing the shots at the (A:/B:/C:/D:/E:).

“Those people never had a chance ,” said _____, (chief of police/sheriff) of F:, a town of _____ people.  “It was a slaughter.” *

Helicopters, ambulances and paramedics from across the area responded to the shooting scene to transport the wounded and dying to nearby hospitals. Quick action by first responders may have saved as many as _____ lives, authorities said.

What We Know of the Gunman

A source close to the investigation who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details of the shooting described G: as (a mentally ill man/a former member of the (U.S. Marines/Army/Navy/Air Force)/a loner/someone who had previously appeared on law enforcement’s radar/a previously upstanding citizen with no criminal record).

In a search of G:’s home, police found _____ weapons. and were working to identify how he obtained them. They were trying to establish a connection, if any, between G: and the  victims at the (A:/B:/C:/D:/E:).

Federal authorities were trying to determine whether G: had terrorist connections. They planned to examine the contents of his (home computer/cell phone/social media accounts) and interview family members, friends and co-workers, they said.

(Neighbors/Coworkers) React

(Neighbors/coworkers) said G: (had been acting strangely in the past few weeks/gave no hint that he planned violence/had a history of alcohol and drug abuse/had a history of domestic violence/was a member of a white nationalist group/had recently immigrated to the United States).

“He was a quiet man,” said _____, a (neighbor/coworker). “He (kept to himself/was a friendly enough guy/someone you would never believe capable of this/was something of what I would call a ‘misfit’/was clearly mentally ill and the last guy who should have been allowed to own a gun).” *

One of those killed in the shooting was H: _____, a (recently returned Afghan war veteran/x-year-old (boy/girl)/community leader). “H: had (his/her) whole life ahead of (him/her)/was expecting (his/her) _____ child/just become engaged to be married,” said _____, a friend. *

In the wake of the shooting, residents of F: struggling to make sense of the tragedy (held a candlelight vigil/paid homage to the victims by placing (teddy bears/flowers/balloons/candles/cards) at a make-shift memorial near the shooting scene. A GoFundMe page was established for survivors and families of the victims.

Families of some of the victims asked the news media for privacy during their time of grief.

Official Reaction

(Donald Trump/White House Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders/House Speaker Paul Ryan) said it was too soon to discuss the role of guns in the F: massacre.

“It’s time to heal, not a time to politicize such a horrific event,” (Trump/Sanders/Ryan) said. “This is America and in America, we support one another and heal one another.” *

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the wounded and the families of the victims,” (Trump/Sanders/Ryan) said. *

Guns Not the Problem

The F: shooting was expected to reignite debate in Congress over background checks for all firearms sales, including sales through gun shows and private transactions.

Pressed on the apparently increasing frequency of mass shootings across the nation, (Trump/Sanders/Ryan/a spokesman for the National Rifle Association) said, “This is not a problem with guns; it’s a problem with mental illness.” *

Mounting Death Toll

The F: mass shooting was the _____ (this week/this month/this year) bringing the mass shooting total for the year to _____.

There have been _____ mass shootings and _____ deaths in the U.S. since the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado in which 15 students and teachers were killed and 24 were wounded. The Columbine massacre thrust mass shootings into Americans’ consciousness.

The generally accepted, although unofficial, definition of a mass shooting is the shooting deaths or wounding of four or people in the same incident.

Note to Editors: Quotes delineated by asterisks (*) are not actual quotes, but representative of likely quotes from the suggested sources. Reporters are urged to use this template as a guide only, and are encouraged to seek out additional sources and details during coverage of the next such event.

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David Lynch is an award-winning film critic and journalist and the current editor-in-chief of the New Mexico Daily Lobo.

Latest posts by David Lynch (see all)