Media Violence: Industry Issue

Which Came First?

This is an age old debate, similar to that of the chicken and the egg…media violence. Which came first frequent violent attacks or frequent media coverage of violence? Which causes which? Which is the “problem”? Does media coverage of violence in turn cause more violence? There are a lot of unanswered questions and I’m not here to answer questions, I’m just here to give my opinion.

chicken and egg

(Courtesy of Google  Images)

School Violence
Today (4/9/14) there was another act of mass school violence. Of course it was covered by EVERY media outlet, including LUTV News. I actually wrote the story. It is interesting that this happened today. Yesterday, my boyfriend and I were actually talking about media’s coverage of violence. And today I wake up and what’s the first national news thing I hear, the Pennsylvania School Stabbing. So therefore, this topic is something that I feel like is an issue and needs to be talked about.

(Courtesy of Youtube. CNN’s coverage of the Pennsylvania School Stabbing)

Firstly, I don’t think media outlets covering these violent stories is the biggest factor in the repeat violent attacks. However, I do think that the coverage “glamorizes” the perpetrators. For example, the coverage of the Sandy Hook School Shooting “glamorized” Adam Lanza. By glamorized, I mean it was centered on him and theories about him. It was all about him. Everyone knows his name, but nobody knows the names of the children and staff that were killed.

(Courtesy of Youtube. ABC’s coverage of the Sandy Hook Massacre)

“Does Kick-Ass Violence Correlate to the Real Deal?”
In August of 2013, three forensic psychiatrists, Vasilis K. Pozios, Praveen R. Kambam, and H. Eric Bender wrote an article for The New York Times. The article asked the question “Does Media Violence Lead to the Real Thing?” Kick-Ass 2, a superhero movie is the start of the article. Actor Jim Carrey distanced himself from the movie because he claimed he couldn’t support the film’s violent scenes because of the recent Sandy Hook massacre. However, Mark Millar, the creator of the “Kick-Ass” comic book series felt differently. He said “I never quite bought the notion that violence in fiction leads to violence in real life any more than Harry Potter casting a spell creates more boy wizards in real life.” Of course consuming violent content doesn’t make us all killers; however it is a risk factor (according to the National Institute of Mental Health, the American Medical Associationthe American Psychiatric Association, and the American Psychological Association).

one does not simply wizard meme

(Courtesy of meme.generator)

Smoking and Lung Cancer…Is There a Connection?

Another over-used metaphor in the violence debate is the smoking and lung cancer one. One can’t say “I’ve smoked for a long time and never got lung cancer. Therefore smoking and lung cancer aren’t related”. Of course, not all smokers get lung cancer and not everyone that has/had lung cancer were smokers. However, smoking is a risk factor in getting lung cancer. This paints the similarity between violent content and becoming a killer.


(Courtesy of Google Images)

Behavioral Study

One study shows that consumption of violent media does have a behavioral effect throughout a person’s lifetime. Psychologists Craig A. Anderson and Brad J. Bushman conducted 42 studies involving almost 5,000 participants. They found that “statistically significant small-to-moderate-strength relationship between consuming violent content and acting aggressively and/or violent later on in life”.

school violence

(Courtesy of Google Images)

News’ Role

However where does the news come in? News stations cover these stories all the time. Every chance they catch. For long periods of time. The way the people of the story are portrayed by news outlets is part of the problem.

(Courtesy of Youtube. CBS’ coverage on the Virginia Tech Shooting)

Listening to Aggressive Words Turns into Aggressive Thoughts
An article from the mental health section of, suggests that violent news coverage is triggering additional violence. Researchers from the University of Missouri-Columbia say those newscasts reporting on violence are harming viewers more than helping them. Tamyra Pierce, from Mizzou says that the aggressive word choice by the media triggers aggressive thoughts. For example, “kill” sounds worse than “shoot”, “massacre” sounds worse than “shooting”, “murderer” sounds worse than “suspect” or “perpetrator”, you get the point. The stations are preying on our emotions with the word choice. Pierce also says that by using words like “loner”, “depressed”, or “introvert” it makes make with similar qualities connect with the perpetrators. Pierce says this is one of the causes of copycat killings. Pierce says that the media use to cover suicides all the time; however they stopped because of the high amount of copycat incidents. However, media still covers school shootings. Think about how many school shootings there has been since Columbine, back in 1999. Pierce says over 3,000 copycat attempts. How about we back off the school shooting coverage….and maybe the number of school shootings will go down, like the suicide count did after extreme coverage stopped.


(Courtesy of Google Images. This is a still shot from the Columbine School’s security cameras during the Columbine Massacre.)

Here’s to Us
So future journalists and I, we can learn from this. Avoid the stories if possible. If they can’t be avoided do the best you can to write a straight forward news story (no fluff, no suspect focus, and no theories on the suspect). Let’s see if we can change the way violence is covered by the media.

media violence meme

(Courtesy of meme.generator)

My Story
Since, I mentioned earlier in my post about the School Stabbing story I had to write for LUTV News today (4/9/14) and the bashing I just gave to the media about how the cover violence, I feel like I should mention how the story went. I wrote it very delicately. I only mentioned the suspect once, at the end “Police have a student in custody.” However, that’s not how the story aired. I had to rewrite it. So I did. And then it was rewritten again before it aired.


(Me in today’s (4/9/14) newscast, reading about the stabbing)

Catch You Later
Until the next mass communications adventure….


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