Harry Potter teaches journalism… woohoo!

While we can understand the instinct to not name – or sympathize with the stated purpose of not encouraging imitators – there is more weight to the counter-argument: that we owe it to the public to try to answer that most difficult of journalistic questions “why,” and we cannot possibly find an answer without beginning with the “who,” and the first piece of meaningful evidence of character is likely to be a name.

What Harry Potter teaches about naming killers by Roy Peter Clock

Though I often have a strong gut reaction at the idea of not naming killers, I could never really articulate it past the idea that using names is important in journalism. To me it’s always seemed essential to have all the information, as if that was the only way to cope with tragedy and to have any chance at preventing it. I understand the idea behind not giving the killer the attention they might desire, but to me it doesn’t seem any better to sweep the person who committed the crime under the rug and miss out on the chance to understand what exactly happened.

Thinking about the concept in terms of Harry Potter helped me solidify my thoughts and see that I’m not alone or uncaring in my perception, although that might just be because I’m an outrageous nerd. As long as Voldemort wasn’t named he had even more mythical power. He didn’t need a name to have a reputation.; speculation and rumors provided that. On the other hand, knowing Voldemort by name and understand his past, allowed us as readers to understand how he became what he was, at least to an extent.

I think journalism has power. Ignoring problems only intensifies them, but bringing attention to the truth can have power to encourage real world change. I know I’m idealistic, but that hope I have is the reason I love journalism. Journalism can and should be a force for good and it won’t be unless we give people and things their proper names.

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