Examining News Media References of Mental Illness in the Wake of Mass Shooting Events Occurring in the United States

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Hollibush, Joshua Todd
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Middle Tennessee State University
In the wake of mass shooting events in the United States, it is generally understood that editorially conservative and liberal news media organizations seemingly present conflicting narratives for the occurrences. Liberals often emphasize the need for stricter gun control measures. Conservatives, on the other hand, often blame societal issues, such as mental illness, for mass shootings so as to discourage the public from participating in discussions critical of firearms, even though such arguments run counter to evidence in research literature. Via content analysis, this study examines news media references of mental illness following five recent mass shooting events in the United States (the Pulse nightclub shooting, the Congressional baseball shooting, the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, and the Waffle House shooting) to determine if there are major differences among CNN’s, Fox News’s, and MSNBC’s news coverage that can be connected to political ideology.
Mass communications