Death Across the News Spectrum: A Time Series Analysis of Partisan Coverage Following Mass Shootings in the United States Between 2012 and 2014

Ayellet Pelled, Josephine Lukito, Jordan Foley, Yini Zhang, Zhongkai Sun, Jon C.W. Pevehouse, Dhavan V. Shah


Mass shootings spur intense coverage across the ideological news media spectrum. A comparative analysis of news attention to verified features of events across partisan news outlets provides opportunities to understand the news values driving coverage in each of these venues. To examine these relationships, we conducted time-series analyses using a unique data set of 59 mass shooting events coded for characteristics of victims, shooters, and context, contrasted with coverage in six major news outlets during 2012–2014. We found that, although certain factors drive news coverage of gun violence, gun rights, and gun control across the ideological spectrum, differential patterns emerge based on contextual particularities. Across all news media, a higher number of non-Black victims drove up coverage. For moderate and conservative news media, a higher number of Black victims predicted reduced coverage. Child deaths drove up coverage of gun rights in moderate news outlets. No feature predicted gun rights discussions in conservative news outlets, suggesting that their focus on gun rights was driven by other factors.


news values, mass shootings, partisan media, news media ecology, time series

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