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Abstract

Topics related to crime and the criminal justice system comprise a majority of topics discussed in the media. This study explores how media coverage of mass shootings varies based on the racial or ethnic identity of the shooter. Topics examined include popular beliefs and misconceptions about the race of mass murderers, the role mass media plays in influencing public perceptions about race and crime related topics, and the alarming rate at which the public recognizes and accepts the media as a reliable source of information when official data sources provide a much different picture. Further analysis of the Columbine High School massacre and Virginia Tech shooting provides a more targeted and detailed examination of how the media dealt with the issue of race when reporting on these two shootings. Additional research focusing on a larger selection of mass shootings is needed to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the problem in its entirety. Regardless, the mass media’s representation of a shooter’s race and ethnicity has serious policy implications for the criminal justice system and public intergroup relations, indicating that extensive changes in how the media reports information surrounding these events are required.