EDITOR’S COLUMN: Murderer’s Facebook Post Reveals America’s Darker Side

This undated photo of Steve Stephens was provided by the Cleveland Police.

The unexplainable random shooting of a Cleveland senior citizen by a deranged city resident which he then posted on Facebook has been at the forefront of the news and social media since the murder took place on Easter Sunday.

And while the public can now rest after the murderer, Steve Stephens, took his own life after being cornered by police, there are still many things that must be sorted out.

Of course, the pain that the family of Robert Godwin, the 74-year-old patriarch who was killed without any reason or provocation, will remain for a very long time. A father of 10 going about his daily activities lost his life senselessly. I cannot imagine how they feel — or how they will pick up the pieces.

Meanwhile, many have pointed the finger at Facebook for allowing such a heinous video to be posted and then to remain for viewers to examine and share for more than two hours before finally being taken down by Facebook staff.

Perhaps it would be wise for Facebook and others who allow live-streaming to consider including a time delay before videos can be viewed. That would allow for a computer program to be employed that could scan for certain kinds of videos and disallow their being posted. That could be one solution.

Still, I’m more troubled by the fact that so many people not only viewed the video, but shared it with others. Have we become a society that “enjoys” seeing the pain of others? Do we like viewing death? Do we celebrate experiencing the darker side of life — albeit through vicarious means?

I have to admit that I’m not a real social media fan to begin with and don’t even make videos, much less post them for viewing. But I realize that they can be enjoyable — like watching the scenes of my grandson smiling, singing and being a happy 3-year-old boy.

That’s why I like having videos streamed online. But even those could be reviewed before being posted.

Maybe I’m rambling a bit here but I hope you get the point. We often want others to police our actions. We want Facebook and the like to do the right thing while we do just the opposite. Social media has many benefits when used properly. But in this case, those who viewed and shared should consider the role they played in this tragedy.

About D. Kevin McNeir – Washington Informer Editor 158 Articles

Award-winning journalist, book editor, voice-over specialist and author with 17 years in the industry. Currently an education and religion beat reporter for The Washington Informer. But I also tackle local (D.C. and Maryland) politics, entertainment, business and health articles to maintain my edge.

Born and raised in Motown and a staunch Wolverine – that is a graduate of the University of Michigan, I left corporate America (IBM) to pursue my passion for writing, accepting a beat reporter’s gig under the tutelage of the late Sam Logan, founding publisher of the Michigan Chronicle. I continued to hone my craft at N’DIGO Magapaper, Windy City Times and The Wednesday Journal, all in Chicagoland; the Atlanta Voice and The Miami Times. I’ve been fortunate to be chosen twice as the Feature Writer of the Year by the Chicago Association of Black Journalists. Later, as the senior editor of one of the country’s oldest Black-owned newspapers, The Miami Times, I helped my staff bring home the NNPA’s highest honor – Publication of the Year, 2001. That same year I picked up first and second place awards for news and feature writing, respectively, also from the NNPA.

Today I’m based in the nation’s capital where I’m honored to serve as the editor for The Washington Informer. Recognizing the importance of education, I’ve earned two master’s degrees from Emory University, Summa Cum Laude and Princeton Theological Seminary, majoring in theology and philosophy.

If I can slow down, I may actually complete and publish a collection of essays I’ve been working on for many years, “Growing up Motown,” sharing childhood memories of experiences with musical legends like Marvin Gaye, Kim Weston, the Four Tops, the Miracles, Gladys Knight and Take Six. My favorite foods: spinach, lasagna, pancakes and Oysters Rockefeller. My mom, 86, always my “best friend” and “cheerleader,” now lives with me and she brings me great joy. I’m a fiercely protective yet encouraging father and grandfather always down for traveling, shopping or celebrating the natural beauty of God’s world. I live by the following words: “Less is more” and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

You can reach me on Twitter (@dkevinmcneir), Facebook (Kevin McNeir) or via e-mail, mcneirdk@washingtoninformer.com