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
Out of Style: Levi’s Fawns Over Shannon Watts in Pantmaker’s Latest Gun Control Effort

News  

Friday, May 17, 2019

Out of Style: Levi’s Fawns Over Shannon Watts in Pantmaker’s Latest Gun Control Effort

At the National Retail Federation’s 2018 convention in New York City, Levi Strauss & Co. Brand President James Curleigh told those assembled that the multinational pants manufacturer intends to be the “most relevant lifestyle brand.” Evidently, part ...

Trump Administration, Other Pro-Gun Heavyweights Lend Support on Pending Supreme Court Case

News  

Friday, May 17, 2019

Trump Administration, Other Pro-Gun Heavyweights Lend Support on Pending Supreme Court Case

As NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris W. Cox reported in March, the U.S. Supreme Court has taken up a challenge by an NRA state affiliate to a New York City gun control scheme that effectively prohibits lawfully ...

Retired Justice Stevens Continues Crusade Against Guns

News  

Friday, May 17, 2019

Retired Justice Stevens Continues Crusade Against Guns

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens does not believe a law-abiding citizen has a right to possess firearms under the Second Amendment, and he wants to make sure everyone knows it. He made his ...

Gov. Abbott Signs NRA-Backed Tenants' Rights Bill

News  

Friday, May 17, 2019

Gov. Abbott Signs NRA-Backed Tenants' Rights Bill

The National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) applauded Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday for signing NRA-backed legislation that protects tenants’ rights by prohibiting “no firearms” clauses in residential leases.   

Hear Ye, Hear Ye, Only What We Want Ye to Hear

News  

Friday, May 17, 2019

Hear Ye, Hear Ye, Only What We Want Ye to Hear

Can we finally put the claim that “gun violence” research is underfunded to rest? The Bloomberg Professor of American Health at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, Daniel Webster, and his colleagues at the Hopkins ...

NRA Supports Guns Save Life's Challenge to Illinois’s FOID Act

News  

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

NRA Supports Guns Save Life's Challenge to Illinois’s FOID Act

NRA is supporting a legal challenge to Illinois's FOID Act brought by Guns Save Life, an organization dedicated to defending the Second Amendment rights of Illinois residents. 

Governor Abbott Signs NRA-Backed Tenants' Rights Bill

Friday, May 17, 2019

Governor Abbott Signs NRA-Backed Tenants' Rights Bill

On Thursday, Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 302 by Representative Dennis Paul (R-Houston) & Senator Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), NRA-supported legislation that prohibits “no firearms” clauses in residential leases.

Illinois: Committee To Receive FOID Cost Increase Legislation

Friday, May 17, 2019

Illinois: Committee To Receive FOID Cost Increase Legislation

On May 21st, the Illinois state House of Representatives Rules Committee will hear House Amendment 1 to Senate Bill 1966 and send it to the Judiciary Committee for further consideration.  HA 1 to SB 1966 would ...

NRA Applauds Attorneys General and Governors Amicus Brief in Supreme Court Challenge

News  

Thursday, May 16, 2019

NRA Applauds Attorneys General and Governors Amicus Brief in Supreme Court Challenge

NRA Applauds Attorney General and Governors Amicus Brief in Supreme Court Challenge.

Nevada: Omnibus Anti-Gun Bill Granted Waiver From Deadlines

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Nevada: Omnibus Anti-Gun Bill Granted Waiver From Deadlines

As previously alerted, yesterday was the deadline for legislation to pass out of the policy committee in the second chamber.  A waiver was granted for Assembly Bill 291, exempting the bill from the deadlines.  This waiver ...

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.