Ethical Implications of Communicating Risk in the Media: A Heuristic for Reporting on Crisis Events with a Focus on Mass School Shootings

Ashley Yuckenberg

Major Professor: Douglas Eyman, PhD, Department of English

Committee Members: Heidi Lawrence, Kathy Rowan

Johnson Center, Meeting Room B
July 26, 2021, 01:00 PM to 02:30 PM


This dissertation analyzes the rhetoric used in the coverage of crisis events, with a particular focus on mass school shooting. Frame analysis was applied to news accounts provided to the public in the two weeks after the Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Parkland school shootings; the resulting analyses were used to develop a heuristic for journalists that could be used to limit undue trauma to victims and the general audience during the coverage of crisis events. As shown by the Center for Disease Control, contagion events (or copycat events) can be limited by following reporting guidelines that focus media coverage on the victims of the event and away from the perpetrator. This heuristic is meant to be used in the coverage of crisis events to work toward what Aristotle calls a hexis(Aristotle, 1999), or habit, of honest rhetoric, and help journalists be more aware of the repercussions of the media’s communication methods.