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Argumentative Research Paper

Kyle Gunderson
May 5th, 2016
Professor Martin
Mass shootings have unfortunately become a common occurrence in our society. Just
another crazy person with a gun and sick blood lust. Or so the news stations tell us. We hear
about these shootings and immediately flip over to the news and see what had happened. The
most recent sooting that was broadcasted was San Bernardino. A heavily armed man and
woman terrorized this city on Wednesday, killing at least 14 people and wounding at least 17 at a
social services center before leading the police on a manhunt culminating in a shootout that left
the two suspects dead, the authorities said (Nagourney 1). Media coverage of these shootings is
controversial. The media has a great influence over our view of these kinds of tragedies. We do
not stop to think about the impact it has on us. Although the public has the right to know when
tragedy hits, the media should not have born allowed to cover the San Bernardino shooting
because of the psychological impact it has on the families and viewers.
Some may argue that the public has the right to know when a tragedy hits and deserves to
have the information available. Brown wrote in his article while discussing the publics right to
know, It gives the public the opportunity to discover, question, criticize and ultimately seek to
remove individuals or practices that are not serving the public well (Brown 1). This article was
released after Columbines evidence was released to the public. He makes the argument that
these records should be made available to the public because it grants the families involved
closure. He feels as though it is a necessary thing to do in order for the community to get past
this event and move forward.

Although the public's does deserve to know when tragedy hits, the risk of over exposure
is way to high because of continuous media coverage and that can cause serious harm to viewers.
Fallahi states, The probability of experiencing acute symptoms for intrusive thoughts, sleep and
appetite disturbance, distraction, fear, stomach disturbance, and anger were less than 9% for TV
viewing of 10 hours and from 30% to 62% for 40 hours of exposure to the Virginia Tech case"
(Fallahi 277-278). The media covers tragedies extensively and that can lead to overexposure.
This leads to lasting psychological problems for the victims families and viewers at home. These
numbers show that the probability of obtaining some sort of symptom is very real and could
happen to anyone. She goes on to state, a study three weeks following the Virginia Tech
Massacre of 312 students found that people who watched 40 hours of coverage or more were
1.5-3 times more likely to experience suicidal thoughts than people who watched 10 hours
(Fallahi 228). Although this is an extreme, it is an example of how this repeated exposure can put
you in psychological harm. The constant media coverage of mass shootings goes on for weeks
and viewing time is constantly accumulating. This is especially dangerous for a viewer that has a
direct connection with the shooting.
Kristensen did her research studying the effects of repeated media exposure has on some
one with a direct connection to the tragedy. She writes, Media coverage can serve as a constant
loss reminder (Kristensen 4). Extensive exposure to the media coverage can make it more
difficult to oscillate between loss- and restoration-oriented coping. This may delay the healing
process (Kristensen 5). This makes it harder for the families and the community to cope with
such a big loss. The constant coverage and updates takes a toll on their emotional state making
them grieve longer and have a greater chance of being psychologically harmed. She supports my
statement by saying, Repeated media exposure of a tragedy will delay the grieving process,

which will lead to Prolonged Grief. This means those closely affected by the event aren't able to
start the healing process and experience lasting physical and psychological problems
(Kristensen 5). This means that if you have a direct connection to the shooting your chances are
way higher than someone viewing at home. Making you more susceptible to overexposure and
the harm that is associated with that. The consistent news coverage for months makes those
affected have to relive their trauma and delays the healing process. It is hard for them to get past
the loss if they are constantly being reminded of it day in and day out. The media portrays these
shooters as crazy and it puts a negative stigma on mental illness, making those with mental
illness feared.
Hoffner did her research on the perception of mental illness in response to news coverage
of mass shootings. She found that, For people with no mental illness experience fear was
associated with the perception that news exposure had increased their negative attitudes about
mental illness (Hoffner 10). She means that viewers with no prior mental health experience
reported feelings of fear towards people with mental illness. The news creates a negative social
stigma about mental illness and makes viewers fearful of others with mental illness. They do not
try to encourage treatment, they use words such as crazy or monster to describe mental
illness. Huffier also states, News coverage that stigmatizes mental illness may lead audience
members to keep treatment a secret, due to self-stigma, even if they do not expect negative
reactions from others (Hoffner 8). People with mental illnesses are scared to speak up because
they do not want to be feared or hated due to their condition. Because of this stigma people do
not want to reach out and find help. Even if they have a support system, they will deny treatment
because they feel embarrassed about their condition. She continues her research by stating, For
those with no experience, the more they perceived that news had negatively influenced their own

attitudes, the more likely they were to post their views online (Hoffner 9). We are in a world
that is all about the internet and spend most of our time on it. People post negative feelings
towards mental illness online, further distancing and isolating people with mental illness. The
internet has a major impact on peoples lives and those stigmatized may see these posts and
retreat away from help. The media will do almost anything for a good story, even when it comes
to children.
Paccione-Dyszlewski states that, Journalism ethics call for parental permission to
interview a child or at the least for the media outlet to obtain parent/guardian consent before
airing a piece. Ground rules involving photographing children are less well defined (PaccioneDyszlewski 1). Children are fragile and can easily be harmed by viewing a major traumatic
event. They need to be carefully examined to make sure they did not suffer any psychological
harm. The media unaware of the traumatic impact it has on children take pictures of them in a
vulnerable state. She continues by saying, Some children may have reactions very soon after the
event, and others may appear to be unfazed, do fine for weeks or months, and then begin to show
troubling behavior (Paccione-Dyszlewski 1). Even though they may appear to be fine, children
are very good at repressing their feelings. After the initial event children should be examined by
a professional to slowly talk and express their feelings. They should not have a camera shoved in
front of their face and photographed. Children may express their feeling through behavior
months after their experience and not say a word. Trauma can affect every aspect of a child
including their mental status, relationships, self-esteem, academic functioning, brain
development, and physical health (Paccione-Dyszlewski 1). Children may act distant or
troubled because of a tragedy and they need to be able to talk about their feelings. Even if they

did not have any issues, an interview with the media could bring those feelings up and damage
them. The media will do anything for a good story, even if it means they harm a child.
Although the public has the right to know when tragedy hits, the media should not be
allowed to cover the San Bernardino shooting because of the psychological impact it has on the
families and viewers. We can see that the media is able to shape our views about mass shootings
and how their coverage can affect us psychologically. By preventing them from covering these
tragedies we can help families heal from their losses. We can also prevent children from
experiencing behavioral and psychological problems. By preventing the media from covering
this mass shooting, we can set a precedent for future shootings making viewers and families less

Work Cited
Brown, Andrew. "Letting The Sun Shine on Columbine." Academic Search Complete [EBSCO].
N.p., 4 May 2004. Web. 1 May 2016.

Fallahi, Carolyn R., and Sally A. Lesik. "The Effects Of Vicarious Exposure To The Recent
Massacre At Virginia Tech." Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, And
Policy 1.3 (2009): 220-230. PsycARTICLES. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Hoffner, Cynthia A., et al. "Perceived Media Influence, Mental Illness, And Responses To News
Coverage Of A Mass Shooting." Psychology Of Popular Media Culture (2015):
PsycARTICLES. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Kristensen, Pl, et al. "Media Exposure And Prolonged Grief: A Study Of Bereaved Parents And
Siblings After The 2011 Utya Island Terror Attack."Psychological Trauma: Theory,
Research, Practice, And Policy (2016): PsycARTICLES. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Nagourney, Adam, Ian Lovett, and Richard Prez-pea. "San Bernardino Shooting Kills at Least
14; Two Suspects Are Dead." The New York Times. The New York Times, 02 Dec. 2015.
Web. 08 May 2016. <>.

Paccione-Dyszlewski, Margaret. "Trauma, Children, And The Media: What Is Ethical

Coverage?." Brown University Child & Adolescent Behavior Letter 29.3 (2013):

Academic Search Complete. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.