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Mass Shootings: A Research Guide: Media Responses


Media coverage of crime in general, including mass shootings, is a subject of widespread criticism which might be summed up by the (supposed) news axiom, "If it bleeds, it leads." How does media coverage shape public perceptions of mass shootings and shooters? 

Another strand of research involves the media portrayal of race and ethnicity in mass shootings, particularly in specific cases such Virginia Tech, where the shooter was Asian-American. One of the San Bernardino shooters was a woman, but discussions of gender are more difficult to find, in part because female shooters are rare. In the FBI's analysis of active shooter incidents, only 6 of 160 involved female shooters (p. 11 of "A Study of Active Shooter Events").

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Race and gender

The shooters in the Orlando, San Bernardino, Fort Hood (2009), and Chattanooga incidents were Muslim and of Middle Eastern heritage; the Fort Hood incident in particular generated a significant pool of analysis relating to stereotypes of Muslims. Researchers interested in the portrayals of Muslim shooters may also need to refer to the much larger body of literature surrounding Western media portrayals of Muslims as terrorists and attendant public backlash against Muslim individuals. Suggested keywords:

  • Muslim
  • media, mass media
  • media framing
  • terrorism, terrorist
  • stereotypes
  • Islamaphobia