A great question came in from a reader in Kingston who wanted to know: "Why does the media continue to repeatedly print the photo and full name of terrorists? If suicide terrorists are seeking glory, why does the media contribute to his/her infamy? It would seem that doing so may actually encourage a future terrorist seeking such 'glory'."
Already, off the top of my head, I can produce the name Michael Zehaf-Bibeau but not his innocent victim."
When we talked more on email, she said she was not suggesting that limiting the terrorist's screen time will solve everything and that it is a complex question. She also said there was a lot of coverage at the time of the death of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, but she wondered why that has faded in the current coverage of the video made by Zehaf-Bibeau moments before he launched his attacks last October and released on Friday by the RCMP.
Let's look at first at the coverage by The Globe and Mail. The coverage was focused on the news event of the day which was the release of the video. There are three frame grab pictures from his cellphone and an article which describes the chilling video and also includes RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson's view that Zehaf-Bibeau would have been prosecuted as a terrorist had he lived.
The article, quite properly, also includes in the first few paragraphs what happened on that day in October including the killing of Cpl. Cirillo at the War Memorial.
So Corporal Cirillo is not forgotten in this story, but the focus is on the news of the day which is the release of the video.
Zehaf-Bibeau's photo was not on the front page. On the front were photos of the thalidomide survivors and the story about the late-breaking government offer of compensation.
This reader is not alone in wanting the media to play down any attention given to killers, especially when it appears they crave attention with their actions.
But society also needs to understand why these actions happened, what motivated the killers and what their background is. That need to understand murders and acts of terror need to be balanced with remembering those who were tragically killed: their faces, the loss to their community and families.
In this case, I think the coverage was balanced. The story included the name of Cpl. Cirillo and included an explanation from the RCMP Commissioner of what Zehaf-Bibeau's motivation was as well as how the RCMP are dealing with terrorism and would-be terrorists. It focused rightly on the news of the day while also recalling the Cpl. Cirillo story.
The reader is right that this is a very complex issue and the media does play a part with the choices it makes. Those choices must be driven by news value and the need to understand our world, while remembering and being respectful of those who were killed.