Reporting mass random shootings: The copycat effect?

Document Type

Journal Article


Abramis Academic Publishing

Place of Publication

United Kingdom


Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Communications and Arts




Originally published as: Greensmith, G., & Green, L. (2015). Reporting mass random shootings: The copycat effect? Ethical Space: The International Journal of Communication Ethics, 12(3/4). Original article available here.


This paper argues that a new understanding of the mass random shooting crime is urgently required. The guidelines for journalists relating to the reporting of suicide have shown the value of understanding the effects of certain types of news coverage on susceptible minds. The mass random shooting crime is excluded from such guidelines because there is no clear evidence for a copycat effect. This paper, however, demonstrates that while the mass random shooting is not generated from the copycat effect, it might nonetheless be impacted by coverage of other such crimes. If that is the case, then there is an argument for a set of reporting guidelines. A fresh examination and interpretation of an old phenomenon, amok, highlights the possible implications of the framing choices made in the news coverage of a mass shooting.