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'Columbine' author Dave Cullen examines the Aurora tragedy

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Years later, I'd have another distant connection to a similar tragedy. A newspaper co-worker of mine would get a job in Denver and suffer emotional scars from the wrenching task of covering the Columbine attacks.

Cullen, who helps journalists recover from the trauma of reporting on tragedy, wrote a commentary for the New York Times last Sunday about the importance of not rushing to conclusions about the Aurora gunman: "Resist the temptation to extrapolate details prematurely into a whole."

I called Cullen to ask him about how we can best understand the horror in Aurora, what we can learn from Columbine and where we can find hope amid the senseless.  
Q: The perpetrators of these acts often seem to want to become famous. Is the media wrong to give them the very publicity they may crave?

A: Every case is different, and it's a little difficult to generalize. And I think "publicity" is the wrong word.

They are reaching for attention in a lot of cases, lashing out and wanting the world to see their pain. It's like "goodbye cruel world" – "you'll see now what you did to me and you'll understand." It's a different emotion than we get from the word "publicity." It's not so much a celebrity thing.

But I do like the idea of mentioning their names as little as possible. I'd like to see more people take that up and see where we can go with that.

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