Reporting mass shootings

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Title

Ethical reporting of sensitive topics


Routledge / Taylor & Francis


School of Arts and Humanities


Greensmith, G. (2019). Reporting mass shootings. In L. Ann (Ed.), Ethical reporting of sensitive topics. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781351166324%20


This chapter examines one of the strangest and most prevalent crimes: the mass random shooting. It describes what happened on 1 August 1966, at the University of Texas, USA and why it ranks as the “first” modern mass shooting. The chapter explores the script that was written by the media coverage that day, and how the crime itself then went from being rare to around 15 major occurrences a year, almost immediately. It explains the inter-disciplinary call to change the nature of this coverage, and offers simple, practical alternatives to existing reporting norms. There has been a notable shift in attitudes towards the media’s identification of the mass shooting perpetrator. Increasingly, news outlets, law enforcement officers, and public officials, have refused to name the shooter and this suggests a new appetite for understanding the ramifications of the dominant narrative of coverage of the crimes.



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