Glynn Greensmith, Lelia Green

Reporting mass random shootings: The copycat effect?

This paper argues that a new understanding of the mass random shooting crime is urgently required. The guidelines for journalists relating to the reporting of suicide have shown the value of understanding the effects of certain types of news coverage on susceptible minds. The mass random shooting crime is excluded from such guidelines because there is no clear evidence for a copycat effect. This paper, however, demonstrates that while the mass random shooting is not generated from the copycat effect, it might nonetheless be impacted by coverage of other such crimes. If that is the case, then there is an argument for a set of reporting guidelines. A fresh examination and interpretation of an old phenomenon, amok, highlights the possible implications of the framing choices made in the news coverage of a mass shooting.

Keywords: mass random shooting, reporting, ethical guidelines, copycat effect


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Note on the contributor

Glynn Greensmith is a journalism lecturer at Curtin University. He is a broadcaster for ABC Local Radio in Australia, having previously worked as a radio journalist and Local Radio producer at the ABC. This article is based on his in-progress research thesis at Edith Cowan University examining the news coverage (in Tasmania) given to both the Dunblane (Scotland, March 1996) and Port Arthur (Tasmania, April 1996) massacres. Email:

Lelia Green is Professor of Communications in the School of Communications and Arts at Edith Cowan University. During the early 1980s she spent some time working in News and Current Affairs at BBC TV and has written in the past on the ethical implications of coverage of the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States of America. Email: