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Covering mass shootings: Journalists’ perceptions of coverage and factors influencing attitudes

by Nicole Dahmen (with Jesse Abdenour, UO, Karen McIntyre, VCU, and Krystal Noga-Styron, CWU)

Using data from a national survey of US newspaper journalists (N = 1,318), this study examines attitudes toward news coverage of mass shootings. Participants generally agreed that coverage had become routine. Journalists were largely supportive of coverage of perpetrators and were ambivalent about acknowledging a relationship between media coverage and a contagion, or “copycat,” effect. A participant’s age was generally the strongest predictor of attitudes toward media reporting on mass shootings. Findings also indicate differences in attitude according to job title, role perception, and whether or not a journalist had covered a mass shooting. A majority of respondents appeared to favor traditional, “neutral” approaches to coverage of mass shootings; however, journalists also wanted to see more comprehensive reporting, including coverage of solutions and community resilience.

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