Las Vegas shooting: can the media do more?

Las Vegas shooting: can the media do more?

Stephen Paddock is responsible for the fatal shooting that left at least 59 people dead and over 500 injured. In the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, which has been labelled the deadliest massacre in recent US history, we need to examine the media’s response to such atrocities.

Riverdale star Cole Sprouse publicly accused the media of being “complicit in the creation of shooters as anti-heroes.” A quick scroll through Twitter lead me to identifying an understanding of the hobbies, childhood and professional life of the 64-year-old gunman Stephen Paddock. Paddock “enjoyed gambling, country music and lived a quiet life before the massacre,” according to The Washington Post. I could even tell you that he received a pilot’s licence in 2003. He had no significant records of committing  any crimes and his ideological motives are yet to be revealed. “He’s just another guy who lived in Mesquite who liked burritos,” reads another headline, which was quoted by the shooter’s brother. The lack of knowledge about Paddock’s motives and the personal nature of this press coverage undermines the severity of the attack.

Paddock is not reported as a “terrorist,” creating amid confusion about whether an act of terror requires a clear political motive. We are told that he does not fit the stereotypical profile of a mass shooter. Twitter is currently the battleground for a tense debate – is Paddock a terrorist? Is the media’s repeated use of “lone wolf” an example of white privilege? Many people have expressed outrage at the irony that the press have fondly memorialised Paddock as a “country music fan” after the senseless murder of fellow fans at a festival. Stephen Paddock’s life story is now plastered all over the internet and the desire for notorious fame could have been his motive.


The media also plays a key role in politicising the tragedy in Las Vegas. We will never know exactly why Paddock attacked faceless strangers from a hotel window. However, we will always wonder if changing the gun legislations, including extensive background checks and bans on assault weapons, might have stopped Stephen Paddock from the actions he has undertaken. However, there is no point in looking at the past, but rather demand changes to the regulations that could stop others from following in his footsteps.


In the immediate aftermath of a fatal shooting, such as the 2012 school shooting in Connecticut, the media has an invested interest in reporting the debate surrounding gun control. However, the surge in press coverage falters as the next big news story breaks. The public, who take their cues from the media, also stop demanding change. It has become a unaltering cycle as efforts to alter gun laws will only be renewed after another shooting tragedy takes place.

Impersonal coverage of the shooter and continued pressure to change gun regulations are the first steps the media can take in helping to prevent future attacks.