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Media Outlets Are Changing The Way They Report On Mass Shootings

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Students comfort each other at a vigil for Saugus High shooting victims in 2019. Chava Sanchez / LAist
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In the past month, at least five mass shootings have shaken the nation.

In mid-March, an armed suspect killed eight people in Georgia. One week later, a shooter left ten people dead in a supermarket in Colorado. Those two incidents were followed by another shooting in Orange County, one in South Carolina, and one in Texas.

The recent spate has meant renewed critique of the way national and local media cover shootings.

Kelly McBride, a media ethicist and senior vice president of the Poynter Institute, says the reason some stories rise to the level of national coverage while others garner more localized coverage has to do, in part, with how numb we have become to the news of a mass shooting on its own.

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“This is actually a very dark commentary on both the news media and the American news consumer,” she says. “But it's not enough to just have a horrific act where a number of people died. There has to be something more than propels that story forward.”

Since the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, she adds, newsrooms have shifted to spend more time focusing on victims, rather than perpetrators.

Many newsrooms have also adopted the practice of naming the shooter as little as possible.