An analysis of how nine California newspapers cover gun violence found that mass shootings and possible legislative responses to those relatively rare tragedies overwhelmingly drove coverage of the issue at the outlets. That focus crowds out reporting on everyday homicides and suicides that account for the vast majority of gun deaths.
The study was commissioned by the Hope and Heal Fund, a gun violence prevention organization.
Of the 218 articles from nine major newspapers papers and 163,000 total Twitter mentions analyzed, 40 percent dealt with politics. Fifteen percent covered mass shootings. Gang violence and domestic violence accounted for 4 percent of coverage.
The study also found that sourcing for stories about gun violence skewed heavily to politicians and activists. Victims only comprised 9 percent of the voices heard from. It’s possible that the timing of the study may have tilted the results: It was conducted as California lawmakers passed a raft of new gun regulations and voters considered an overlapping ballot initiative that included measures to prohibit the possession of high-capacity magazines and require background checks on ammunition sales.
Doing our part to correct the underrepresentation of victims in reporting on gun violence is a core mission of The Trace. Please check out our Shot and Forgotten project, which shines a light on the experience of the tens of thousands of people who are shot each year and survive. If you know someone who fits this description, please encourage them to take our five-minute survey.