Newsrooms demonstrated remarkable caution this week and avoided speculation about the motives of Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, who went on a shooting spree in Chattanooga, Tenn., killing four U.S. Marines and injuring several more.
The same cannot be said, however, for how the press reacted in February when three Arab-American teens were shot and killed in Chapel Hill, N.C., over what turned out to be a parking dispute. In that case, many in media appeared to suggest that the motive was anti-Muslim sentiment.
But when news broke Thursday that there was a mass casualty event in Chattanooga, the media was careful not to jump to conclusions based on Abdulazeez's name or the fact that he was a naturalized citizen from Kuwait.
"I know we don't know the motive of this young man," MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell said during a broadcast shortly after the attack.
CNN national security analyst Tom Fuentes was also unwilling Thursday after the shooting to draw conclusions based on Abdulazeez's name, saying that he's not entirely sure whether the shooter was a Muslim.
"First of all, John, I know what the name sounds like," Fuentes said. "But we don't know it's a Muslim name. We know it's an Arabic name. We don't know what this individual was believing in, and that's what they'll be trying to determine."
CNN's Don Lemon added separately later that evening, "We still don't really know a motive here."
On Friday, NBC News' Savannah Guthrie said, "It's too early to know, exactly, what his motive is."
CNN's Chris Cuomo meanwhile said that same morning that, "we may never know the exact motive" of the Chattanooga shooter.
The press was also careful to avoid speculation over why he had targeted military recruiting centers, taking the lives for four U.S. Marines, including, Sgt. Carson Holmquist, 27, David Wyatt, 37, Skip Wells, 21, and Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, 40, and injuring several other servicemen.
Law enforcement officials said Friday afternoon that they had opened up several investigations into whether Abdulazeez had coordinated the attack with well-known terrorist groups, including the Islamic State or al Qaeda.
U.S. attorneys also said they were treating the event as an act of domestic terrorism.
Lacking official, law enforcement-verified information on Abdulazeez's background, media played it safe with the story, sticking faithfully to the basics of the case, including the shooter's age, name and place of origin, and mostly avoiding speculation over whether he had major ties to terror groups or whether the attack was inspired Islamic jihad.
The cautious, responsible approach seen this week after the Chattanooga shooting stands in sharp contrast to how newsrooms reacted in February when Craig Stephen Hicks shot and killed Deah Shaddy Bakarat, 23; his wife, Yusor Mohammad, 21; and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salah, 19, over a parking dispute.
Immediately after that Chapel Hill shooting, the press highlighted the fact that the three victims were Muslim, seemingly suggesting that the murders were perhaps inspired by "Islamaphobic" backlash.
"Three members of a Muslim family were killed execution style by their own neighbor," New York Daily News said.
"3 Members Of Muslim Family Shot Dead In Chapel Hill," Huffington Post Impact added.
For Yahoo: "Three Muslim-American students killed near North Carolina university campus."
"Parking Dispute Cited in Shooting Deaths of 3 Muslims in North Carolina," the Wall Street Journal reported.
"Chapel Hill Shooting Leaves 3 Muslim Students Dead; Neighbor Is Charged," the New York Times reported.
Though headlines were quick to highlight the victims' religion, something rarely noted in domestic shooting stories, they mostly avoided all mention of the shooter's atheism.
Many media commentators were also quick to claim that the shooting was motivated by anti-Muslim hate.
"I see your heartbreak Muslim followers, yes #chapelhillshooting was terrorism #Islamophobia those young ones were Shahid, died for faith," tweeted Lousie Mensch, who writes for British daily The Times.
"Some reports that #ChapelHillShooting assailant was a liberal. Indeed/either way — #Islamaphobia is NOT limited to the right wing," CNN contributor Sally Kohn said on Twitter after suggesting earlier that the story was not being covered enough by the press.
Media speculation that the Chapel Hill shooting was inspired by anti-Islamic hate flew fast and thick the morning of the murders — and all before law enforcement officials had provided the press with concrete facts regarding the case.