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Sunday Conversation: Journalism Professor Nicole Dahmen on Mass Shootings and the Media


Candles are placed at a makeshift memorial site honoring the victims of Wednesday's shooting rampage, Friday, Dec. 4, 2015, in San Bernardino, Calif. The FBI said Friday it is officially investigating the mass shooting in California as an act of terrorism, while a U.S. law enforcement official said the woman who carried out the attack with her husband had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group and its leader on Facebook. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
 


Candles are placed at a makeshift memorial site honoring the victims of Wednesday’s shooting rampage, Friday, Dec. 4, 2015, in San Bernardino, Calif. The FBI said Friday it is officially investigating the mass shooting in California as an act of terrorism, while a U.S. law enforcement official said the woman who carried out the attack with her husband had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group and its leader on Facebook. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)  

AP

Nicole Dahmen teaches Journalism at the University of Oregon, and she says research shows that media coverage can have a lasting effect on society as a whole.  

“The media spotlight so quickly bounces from one horrific event to the next, that it becomes all too easy to lose track, to forget, and to really become desensitized to these events,” Dahmen says.  

And while it’s easy to criticize media outlets when they make factual or ethical mistakes trying to get the story first (as MSNBC and CNN did when they broadcasted live footage from the home of the San Bernardino shooting suspects), Dahmen says a bigger area of concern is how media outlets cover the perpetrators.  

“A lot of the psychology research that has come in,” Dahmen says, “is that the coverage can far too easily glamorize the perpetrator, ignore the victims…there’s a growing body of research that’s shown that this type of coverage can lead to copycat acts, that sensational coverage furthers the terrorists agenda, and it can provide that notoriety, that many of these mass killers can crave.”  

Dahmen spoke with OPB Weekend Edition host John Sepulvado for this week’s Sunday Conversation.        

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