After Mass Shooting, Public Wants Stories of ‘Heroes’, Not Shooters: Study

A series of studies of news coverage of mass shootings also found that whites involved in mass shootings are more likely to be associated with mental illness than African Americans.

Americans are more interested in reading stories that focused on courageous bystanders  after a mass shooting than on the shooters or their victims, according to a study in the American Behavioral Scientist.

Researchers who conducted an electronic survey of 212 adults, aged 35 to 44 years, to examine their interest in reading different kinds of news coverage of a school shooting, called it an example of “information-seeking behavior.”

The study “Covering Mass Murder: An Experimental Examination of the Effect of News Focus — Killer, Victim, or Hero — on Reader Interest” was part of an aggregate of studies compiled by the Jack Levin, a professor emeritus at Northeastern University, and Julie B. Wiest, a sociologist at West Chester University.

“Although all stories suggested a certain threat, those that focused on the killer and victim offered uncertain solutions … which may explain why they were less interesting to subjects.”

A second study conducted by Ohio State University researchers found that whites involved in mass shootings are more likely to be associated with mental illness in media coverage than African Americans.

Researchers concluded that “the odds that white shooters will receive the mental illness frame are roughly 19 times greater than the odds for black shooters.”

The study, “Mental Illness, the Media, and the Moral Politics of Mass Violence: The Role of Race in Mass Shootings Coverage,” was based on an analysis of news articles written about mass shootings between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2015, in an effort to examine how journalists portray perpetrators of different ethnicities.

“The odds that a Latino shooter will receive the mental illness frame are roughly 12 times greater when compared to Blacks,” the study said.

The study was published in the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency. 

In a third study, researchers examined journalists’ attitudes about news coverage of mass shootings in the U.S. and found that journalists, though by a small margin, agreed that coverage is “sensational” and most agreed that the way newsrooms cover these events “is an ethical issue.”

“Most journalists were in favor of perpetrator coverage and did not believe it glamorized suspected perpetrators,” the study concluded.

“Most news workers likely do not want to believe that their work contributes to further carnage and suffering, despite evidence showing that fame-seeking mass shooters and a contagion effect do, in fact, exist.”

The study “Covering Mass Shootings: Journalists’ Perceptions of Coverage and Factors Influencing Attitudes” was published in the Journalism Practice journal.

In a fourth study, researchers examined The New York Times’ coverage of 90 mass shootings between 2000 and 2012 to see how to see how factors such as victim counts, the location of a shooting and the shooter’s race affect the newsworthiness of each event.

The researchers found that race/ethnicity and victim counts are the most salient predictor of whether or not a shooting was covered, with perpetrators of Asian and other descent and those events with higher victim counts generating more prominent coverage. The also found that incidents occurring in locations other than schools garnered less coverage.

The study, “Mass Shootings and the Media: Why All Events Are Not Created Equal,” was published in Journal of Crime and Justice.

In the final study of the compilation, researchers examined New York Times articles stretching back 50 years and found that massacres at schools, government buildings and religious institutions got more coverage than those occurring at businesses.

Also, shooters of Middle Eastern descent received more coverage than shooters of other races.

The study, “The Media’s Coverage of Mass Public shootings in America: Fifty Years of Newsworthiness,” was published in the International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice.

This summary was prepared by TCR News Intern Gabriel Ware.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Controlling Crime Through Media and Public Relations

Highlights Law enforcement and justice agencies get to tell their story through proactive media and public relations. We decide how our story is told. We are no longer dependant on the media. This is revolutionary! The public needs to be involved and take ownership of crime problems. Editor’s Note I am doing a seminar on […]

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Highlights Law enforcement and justice agencies get to tell their story through proactive media and public relations. We decide how our story is told. We are no longer dependant on the media. This is revolutionary! The public needs to be involved and take ownership of crime problems. Editor’s Note I am doing a seminar on […]

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from https://www.crimeinamerica.net

Brett Kavanaugh, Sexual Assault And Unreported Violent Crimes

Highlights Most acts of violence (including rape) are not reported to the police. Not reporting victimization is a shared, common experience among many if not most Americans. Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of award-winning public relations for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national […]

The post Brett Kavanaugh, Sexual Assault And Unreported Violent Crimes appeared first on Crime in America.Net.

Highlights Most acts of violence (including rape) are not reported to the police. Not reporting victimization is a shared, common experience among many if not most Americans. Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of award-winning public relations for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national […]

The post Brett Kavanaugh, Sexual Assault And Unreported Violent Crimes appeared first on Crime in America.Net.

from https://www.crimeinamerica.net

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Highlights Per Gallup, 85 percent of Americans either have a great deal or some confidence in law enforcement. The media and Congress are at the bottom of the ratings. Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of award-winning public relations for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by […]

The post American Confidence in Law Enforcement Very High appeared first on Crime in America.Net.

Highlights Per Gallup, 85 percent of Americans either have a great deal or some confidence in law enforcement. The media and Congress are at the bottom of the ratings. Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of award-winning public relations for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by […]

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from https://www.crimeinamerica.net

We Can’t Agree on Basic Facts When Discussing Crime

Observations How to communicate effectively when people can’t agree on basic facts. Media and public relations are best served when we acknowledge that people hold beliefs that we may consider wrong or unsupportable, but insulting or disregarding those opinions causes people to entrench. When they do, they are no longer listening. Respect for the beliefs […]

The post We Can’t Agree on Basic Facts When Discussing Crime appeared first on Crime in America.Net.

Observations How to communicate effectively when people can’t agree on basic facts. Media and public relations are best served when we acknowledge that people hold beliefs that we may consider wrong or unsupportable, but insulting or disregarding those opinions causes people to entrench. When they do, they are no longer listening. Respect for the beliefs […]

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The Overwhelming Number of Police Shootings Involve Armed Suspects

  Observations The vast majority of police officers have never fired their guns. The overwhelming number of police shootings involve armed suspects. Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of award-winning public relations for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist […]

The post The Overwhelming Number of Police Shootings Involve Armed Suspects appeared first on Crime in America.Net.

  Observations The vast majority of police officers have never fired their guns. The overwhelming number of police shootings involve armed suspects. Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of award-winning public relations for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist […]

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The Media Is Not Our Enemy

Observations Regardless as to your feelings about media relations and the justice system, reporters will let you influence them if you are seen as knowledgeable and trustworthy. It’s in our best interest to fully engage. American cops feel that they are taking a beating, but as a profession, they are the most respected in the […]

The post The Media Is Not Our Enemy appeared first on Crime in America.Net.

Observations Regardless as to your feelings about media relations and the justice system, reporters will let you influence them if you are seen as knowledgeable and trustworthy. It’s in our best interest to fully engage. American cops feel that they are taking a beating, but as a profession, they are the most respected in the […]

The post The Media Is Not Our Enemy appeared first on Crime in America.Net.

from https://www.crimeinamerica.net

Baltimore Crime And American Policing

Background USA Today offered an analysis addressing why Baltimore has become America’s deadliest city. Their article examined police “disengagement” as an explanation for the profound rise of violence in Baltimore. By disengagement, they mean a lack of proactive, self-initiated policing. There are additional reports responding to the USA Today article harshly critical of cops. The […]

The post Baltimore Crime And American Policing appeared first on Crime in America.Net.

Background USA Today offered an analysis addressing why Baltimore has become America’s deadliest city. Their article examined police “disengagement” as an explanation for the profound rise of violence in Baltimore. By disengagement, they mean a lack of proactive, self-initiated policing. There are additional reports responding to the USA Today article harshly critical of cops. The […]

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from https://www.crimeinamerica.net

Cops Take Back Their Image With The Lip Sync Challenge

Observations We’re not just talking about a couple thousand views, police lip sync videos are getting tens of thousands and in the case of Norfolk, millions. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s time to take our public relations into our own hands. Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of […]

The post Cops Take Back Their Image With The Lip Sync Challenge appeared first on Crime in America.Net.

Observations We’re not just talking about a couple thousand views, police lip sync videos are getting tens of thousands and in the case of Norfolk, millions. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s time to take our public relations into our own hands. Author Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of […]

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from https://www.crimeinamerica.net

Should the Media Limit Coverage of Mass Shooters?

“When someone is desperate for fame or attention, committing a high-profile mass killing is one of the only guaranteed ways to get it,” criminologist Adam Lankford told a recent gathering of journalists. Responsible media, he argued, should guard against providing killers with a platform.

In the nearly two decades since two students committed a massacre at Colorado’s Columbine High School, the news media have done extensive reporting on a long series of shooters at other schools and elsewhere.

More experts and victims are concluding that enough is enough, citing a growing body of evidence citing mass shooters who have said that a major goal of their acts is to achieve fame via news reports.

In an unusual session, one of the chief media critics, criminologist Adam Lankford of the University of Alabama, was invited to make his case last week to a major organization of journalists. He got a sympathetic reaction.

Last year, Lankford co-edited an issue of the journal American Behavioral Scientist titled “Media Coverage of Mass Killers: Content, Consequences, and Solutions.”

In it, academics and others argue that the media should be more careful about covering mass shooters.

“When someone is desperate for fame or attention,” Lankford says, “committing a high-profile mass killing is one of the only guaranteed ways to get it. In many cases, winning a Super Bowl or Academy Award garners less media attention than committing one of these crimes.”

Last fall, 149 academics joined in an open letter urging media organizations not to name or use photos of mass shooters, “stop using the names, photos, or likenesses of past perpetrators (and) report everything else about these crimes in as much detail as desired.”

In last week’s panel discussion at the annual convention of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), University of Missouri journalism Prof. Katherine Reed, herself a former journalist, worried that the media “may be making celebrities” out of mass killers, encouraging others to copy them.

Lankford quoted a series of shooters who indicated in statements made before their crimes that they were either “attention-seekers or copycats.”

Included was the shooter of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), who said, “I’ll see you on national TV,” and the killer at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub massacre, who called the local TV outlet News 13 during his attack and then checked online to see if he had “gone viral.”

The Parkland shooter said, “When you see me on the news, you’ll all know who I am,” and the Santa Fe, Tx., school shooter explained that he wanted to “have his story told.”

It isn’t only a matter of seeking fame, Lankford said. By doing stories about each event that focus on how many people were killed in comparison with previous episodes, the media are encouraging shooters to set new records, he maintained.

The shooter in February in a Parkland, Fl., high school, for example, said that his goal was to kill at least 20 people. (He got close, killing 17.)

Lankford does not flatly contend that media should never give a shooter’s name, but he offered an option that the name be mentioned only in an initial story and not be reported in follow-up stories. “How often does the public need this information?” he asked at the meeting with journalists.

Media organizations should not be expected to suppress shooters’ names, Lankford said, but he suggested that after reporting on the initial shooting, media outlets might confine information about the shooter to one page of their websites and not repeatedly mention it in follow-up stories.

Dawn Clapperton, senior producer for investigations at WTVJ, the NBC television affiliate in Miami, which covered the Parkland shooting, said that the station’s staff has had internal discussions about taking care to use appropriate words in describing mass shootings and showing sensitivity to victims in covering such events.

Clapperton said her station decided to use the word “massacre” sparingly, for example.

Lisa Cianci, news content director at the Orlando Sentinel, led coverage of the Pulse nightclub shooting in which 49 were killed. The coverage was intensive, with 48 stories in the first 24 hours after the event, covering nine pages in print. The newspaper also produced 26 videos.

The newspaper “kept the victims in the forefront,” writing obituaries on each of them, Cianci said, and did not show the shooter’s photo on its front page.

Lankford contends that important details about a mass shooting, including who
committed the attack (age, sex, race, religion, background, mental health, criminal record, behavior, etc.) does not require publishing the perpetrator’s name or face.

He contends that limiting identification of the shooter is consistent with the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, which calls on media to “balance the public’s need for information against potential harms” and to avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.”

Lankford says that “denying mass shooters de facto celebrity status and
widespread fame does not require keeping their names completely confidential.”

He notes that the names of shooters still will be a matter of public record and widely known, including by witnesses, families, and local community members.

One unofficial experiment took place this year in after a Kentucky school shooting, when the news media withheld the offender’s name for several weeks because he was only 15 years old.

tabloids

Tabloids cover mass shootings. Photo by scleroplex via Flickr

Lankford contends that the absence of a name “didn’t limit the depth or quality of coverage,” He says that some news outlets ran video footage of his arrest (in which his face was blurred out) and interviews of classmates who described his personality and behavior in detail.

No media representative offered a detailed rebuttal of Lankford at the journalists’ discussion last week, but Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute has contended that it is legitimate for the media to name mass shooters.

McBride says that, “When you name an individual and tell his story, you give people important context for the backstory,” and that “knowing who was behind the gun allows us to identify trends,” such as that most mass acts of violence have been committed by young white males.”

Naming the shooter also can prevent misinformation, she says, recalling that after the 2012 Newton, Ct., school shooting, some media outlets misidentified the shooter as his brother.

Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington bureau chief of The Crime Report. He welcomes readers’ comments.

from https://thecrimereport.org