Media Framing in the Lifecycle of School Shootings: A Thematic Analysis of the Parkland High School Shooting

Open Access
Author:
Farmelant, Shayna
Area of Honors:
Interdisciplinary honors in Advertising/Public Relations and Media Studies
Degree:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Anthony Olorunnisola, Thesis Supervisor
  • Ann Marie Major, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • School shooting
  • parkland high school shooting
  • columbine
  • comparative
  • sandy hook
  • virginia tech
  • media
  • issue-frames
Abstract:
On Feb. 14, 2018, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, FL became the next school shooting in American history to spark the gun control debate. High school students led the way with the March for Our Lives movement, which became a national school walk-out advocating gun control and the removal of NRA-backed politicians during the midterm elections in November 2018. Mainstream media framed these events as pivotal points in the U.S. history of mass shootings and in the gun control debate. This study analyzes prior school shootings at Columbine High School in 1999, Virginia Tech University in 2007, and Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 as references to how the media coverage of school shootings has changed, if at all, in the last two decades. Using a thematic content analysis of New York Times media coverage in the 30 days following the Parkland shooting, this study adapts methodologies from the Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook shootings to understand how the media tells the story of a school shooting. In a comparison of the four shootings, these results indicated that the media has remained mostly stable in its school shootings news cycles, changing mainly to incorporate gun control policies.