Names, facts and reporting on the Nova Scotia shooting rampage

The mass shooting in Nova Scotia that left at least 18 victims dead has devastated the small communities in which it occurred and shocked and rattled the entire country, unfolding in a crude and violent way overnight Saturday and into early Sunday morning.

At CBC News, we take seriously our responsibility to tell you as much information as we have at the time and to deliver that information to you without sensationalizing or understating its impact on Canadians. 

We recognize the impact these terrible events have on people; not only those closest to the event but everyone else who might be affected.

Sadly, while this particular tragedy is fresh in our minds now, it is not the first time a single person has decided to go on a senseless, murderous rampage.

How do we cover these awful events? What do we say about the person who did this? How do we respect those who were killed and their devastated families?

These are all questions we began to confront early Sunday morning.

We’ll publish everything that is relevant

It began as a dangerous search for what the RCMP described as an “active shooter” — a man who had killed people and was still at large. The RCMP supplied the public with a photo of the gunman, his name and an image of the car he was driving and urged caution.

CBC News published and aired all of that information out of a duty to the public interest.

After the RCMP chased down and fatally shot the gunman, the story shifted from one of uncertainty and unknowns to one of disbelief and horror about what had happened.

CBC News shifted, too, and the focus of our coverage became firmly rooted in the stories of the victims, the survivors, their families and friends.

Our job is to inform Canadians about everything that is relevant for even the most difficult stories. That includes reporting on who did this. It’s important to do this work. It’s part of coming to terms with the whole story.

WATCH | Tributes pour in for victims of deadly Nova Scotia rampage:

Chief Supt. Chris Leather says RCMP are not yet certain how many people were killed because there may still be victims in burnt-out homes. 4:37

Careful, respectful and deliberate

At CBC News, we appreciate the suggestion from some to stop using the shooter’s name and image, and we respect that perspective, but we believe that the media should not deliberately hold back relevant, credible information. 

We must report all the relevant facts about important stories. We will always name an alleged perpetrator when it is in the interest of public safety or as a form of accountability.

So yes, we will report that the shooter who killed at least 18 people in Nova Scotia was Gabriel Wortman, 51, and we will tell you if there is something about him that helps us all understand why he did what he did.

But we will be careful, respectful and deliberate that we don’t glorify what he did, that we don’t in any way amplify his role beyond the harsh truth that he did it. 

It’s important that your public broadcaster gives you the information you need to assess and understand a story. As always, we will do so sensitively and respectfully.

WATCH | Nova Scotia RCMP update on the mass shooting:

People across Nova Scotia expressed their sorrow and grief via music as they dealt with the aftermath of one of the deadliest mass killings in Canadian history.   2:57

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