Mass shooting “contagion” and media coverage: Minimizing the risks

  • Event: 2018 IRE Conference
  • Speakers: Lisa Cianci of Orlando Sentinel; Dawn Clapperton of NBC6 Miami; Adam Lankford of The University of Alabama; Katherine Reed of Missouri School of Journalism
  • Date/Time: Thursday, Jun. 14 at 2:30pm
  • Location: Oceans 5-7
  • Audio file: No audio file available.

A growing body of research provides evidence of a disturbing problem: Extensive coverage of mass shootings is a factor in the increasing lethality of these incidents, and it appears to encourage some copycats who crave widespread attention and even fame. Social media sharing of content related to mass shootings, the people who commit them, their names, images, and “manifestos” also seems to increase the likelihood of subsequent mass shootings. Meanwhile, the news media have a responsibility to bear witness to events of public interest and attempt to make sense of the seemingly senseless, hold institutions (including their own) accountable for failures, and examine the psychological and social factors that might help predict and prevent mass shootings. How can the news media do their job while minimizing the potential harms of their coverage? What guidance does the research provide?

Speaker Bios

  • Lisa Cianci is the content director for news at the Orlando Sentinel. She lead the coverage of the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre that killed 49 people, which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in breaking news. Lisa runs the teams at the heart of the newsroom -- breaking news and community news -- and she directs coverage of all major breaking stories for print and online. Lisa is a graduate of the University of Florida. @lisacianci

  • Dawn Clapperton is the Assistant News Director at NBC6 in South Florida. She leads the duopoly investigative unit at NBC6 and previously supervised investigative units in West Palm Beach and Indianapolis. @Dawn_Clapperton

  • Adam Lankford is a criminology professor at The University of Alabama and the author of two books and numerous peer-reviewed journal articles on mass shootings and terrorism. His research findings have been featured by every major media outlet in the United States and foreign media from more than 40 countries. He recently co-edited a special issue for American Behavioral Scientist on “Media Coverage of Mass Killers: Content, Consequences, and Solutions.”

  • Katherine Reed, an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism, got her start as a police reporter. In the 1990s, she was a victim’s advocate and a consultant for the National Victim’s Center. She has done work with the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma at Columbia University and the Disaster and Community Crisis Center at MU. She teaches a trauma reporting class and has trained educators on the topic. She is also an editor at ColumbiaMissourian.com. 

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