Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN News

Media Contagion Effect and Mass Shootings

Friday, January 11, 2019

Media Contagion Effect and Mass Shootings

Writing for Editor & Publisher, freelance journalist Angela Morris asked recently, “Do Journalists Deserve Some Blame for America’s Mass Shootings?” A review of the evidence summarized by Morris should serve as a stark warning for journalists who cover mass shootings.

The phenomena of “contagion” and “copycat” shootings by violent, deranged individuals are well-documented in academic studies. Morris cited work by Nicole Dahmen (University of Oregon), Adam Lankford (University of Alabama), Eric Madfis (University of Washington Tacoma), and Sherry Towers (Arizona State University) in making the case that media naming and detailed portrayals of mass shooters serves to motivate and trigger similar attacks by other individuals predisposed to violence. In fact, a recent Google Scholar search for the terms “shooting,” “copycat,” “contagion,” and “media” yielded 702 results (i.e., articles, columns, peer-reviewed publications, and books or chapters therein) published since 2000, while a search for “role of the media ‘mass shootings’” produced 8,206 such entries over the same time period.

Clearly, substantial attention has been devoted to assessing the media’s impact in fostering mass shootings. Findings summarized by Morris include:

  • Work by Lankford (2016), who found that “it’s a normal thing for American mass shooters to seek fame. Examining detailed mentions in the media, Lankford (2018) also calculated that “’the Charleston church shooter received more than $17 million worth of free advertising in media mentions following his attack … [and] he has already been cited as a source of inspiration by multiple copycats, including the 2017 Sutherland Springs shooter who killed 26 victims and wounded 20 more.’”
  • Dahmen’s (2018) research, which determined that “newspapers are publishing far more photos of perpetrators than victims—by a ratio of 16 to 1.” As Morris recounted,

Following 2007’s Virginia Tech shooting, in which 32 people died, 95 percent of front pages had a photo, often in the lead story. For 2012’s Sandy Hook shooting, which killed 26 – many children – 90 percent of papers had front-page, lead story photos. After 2015’s Umpqua Community College shooting, which took nine lives, just 35 percent of papers had front-page photos. Maybe it had less coverage because fewer people died.

  • Towers’s study (Towers, Gomez-Lievano, Mubayi, & Castillo-Chavez, 2015), indicating that “a new mass shooting gets its incentive from similar, recent mass shootings, and this contagiousness lasts for 13 days.” Towers et al. (2015, p. 2) suggest that “stressed individuals may have, consciously or sub-consciously, been inspired to action on previously suppressed urges by exposure [through media channels] to details of similar events.”

Morris also mentioned efforts aimed at “ending perpetrator publicity,” such as No Notoriety, and a proposal from Lankford and Madfis (2017, p. 6) which offered a reporting prescription for reporters and editors in the case of mass shootings:

1. Do not name the perpetrator.
2. Do not use photos or likenesses of the perpetrator.
3. Stop using the names, photos, or likenesses of past perpetrators.
4. Report everything else about these crimes in as much detail as desired.

Given the growing mass of empirical evidence that media reporting and – sadly – sensationalism of mass shootings inspire fame-seeking copycats, why has the mainstream media not adjusted its reporting? Is it ignorance? Perhaps. Offering that “there’s mounting evidence of a contagion effect in media coverage of mass shootings and school shootings,” Morris continued, “but experts say that most journalists know nothing about the research.”

Or, it could simply be institutional bias against guns and gun owners, and a refusal by the media – and entertainment industries to acknowledge their own culpability.

 

IN THIS ARTICLE
crime
TRENDING NOW
NRA Opposes David Chipman for ATF Director

News  

Friday, April 9, 2021

NRA Opposes David Chipman for ATF Director

During a press conference on Thursday, President Biden announced that he would once again be targeting law-abiding gun owners by ordering ATF to develop two new restrictive regulations. Aiming to accessorize the Department of Justice’s ...

In New Executive Gun Control Push, Biden Seems to Throw Obama, and Himself, Under the Bus

News  

Monday, April 12, 2021

In New Executive Gun Control Push, Biden Seems to Throw Obama, and Himself, Under the Bus

At Biden's recent Rose Garden ceremony, where he announced his latest assault on the Second Amendment, he lied a number of times, and garbled the name of the federal agency tasked with enforcing federal gun ...

A Radical Idea: It’s Not the Gun, it’s the Criminal

News  

Monday, April 12, 2021

A Radical Idea: It’s Not the Gun, it’s the Criminal

Rahm Emanuel, recently the mayor of Chicago and who has previously served as a member of the Clinton Administration and as President Obama’s White House chief of staff, proposed a few curious gun control ideas ...

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

Texas: Urge Your Lawmakers to Pass Permitless Carry this Session

Monday, April 12, 2021

Texas: Urge Your Lawmakers to Pass Permitless Carry this Session

House Bill 1911, by Rep. James White (R-Woodville), and House Bill 1927, by Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler), NRA-backed permitless carry proposals that would allow law-abiding citizens to carry a handgun without a state-issued License To Carry (LTC), have been reported ...

New Jersey: Gov. Murphy Announces Drastic Gun Control Agenda

Thursday, April 15, 2021

New Jersey: Gov. Murphy Announces Drastic Gun Control Agenda

Thursday morning, Gov. Phil Murphy held a press conference to unveil yet another gun control package in the Garden State.  

Hunter Biden Incident Shows that Gun Laws are for the Little People

News  

Monday, April 5, 2021

Hunter Biden Incident Shows that Gun Laws are for the Little People

There is a central hypocrisy at the heart of the gun control effort.

South Carolina House Passes Constitutional Carry

Friday, April 9, 2021

South Carolina House Passes Constitutional Carry

Yesterday, the House voted to pass House Bill 3096 on third reading. It has been sent to the Senate for further consideration.

Texas: Permitless Carry Scheduled for House Consideration on Thursday!

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Texas: Permitless Carry Scheduled for House Consideration on Thursday!

House Bill 1927, by Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler), an NRA-backed permitless carry proposal that would allow law-abiding citizens to carry a handgun without a state-issued License To Carry (LTC), will be debated by the full Texas House on Thursday!

NRA-backed Constitutional Carry Signed in Tennessee

News  

Thursday, April 8, 2021

NRA-backed Constitutional Carry Signed in Tennessee

Gov. Bill Lee signs NRA-backed constitutional carry bill to advance the self-defense rights of all Tennessee gun owners. 

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.