Date of Award

Summer 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Sociology & Criminal Justice


Criminology and Criminal Justice

Committee Director

Mona Danner

Committee Member

Ruth Triplett

Committee Member

Vanessa Panfil

Committee Member

Danielle Slakoff


As media continues to integrate into everyday life, it is essential to critically examine the media and the messages that are forwarded to the public, who often lack personal knowledge of crime and justice issues, and thus rely on news media to glean information. This effort, also called media criminology, seeks to understand the media and the effect it has on understanding societal issues. This project forwards media criminology by examining online news articles, as media criminology has historically focused on traditional media formats, such as newspaper and television. Online news has surpassed these traditional formats and has become a main source of information, however, information in online news articles can often include opinions alongside facts. As such, this project utilizes a conflict criminology framework to analyze the messages used in the media to achieve hegemony. In order to fully grasp how the media forwards messages about crime and justice issues, eight mass shooting cases were chosen to discover what differences, if any, are present in the representation of mass shooting events across liberal and conservative mainstream news sites and news commentary sites. News sites were chosen based on their comparable consumer traffic and their political orientation as conservative or liberal. Mainstream news sites are those national news sites that are popular and considered reliable sources of information. The two mainstream news sites chosen for this project are NBC News and Fox News. Commentary sites are sites that feature information alongside opinion, and often engage in partisan reporting. The two news commentary sites chosen for analysis are Slate and Breitbart. Once cases and news sites were chosen, a word frequency query was performed on all articles, followed by thematic analysis for the portrayal of offenders and victims, as well as how cases were explained and what policies were forwarded. Results reveal that media bias does exist along political party lines of the news media when representing mass shooting cases. Offenders and victims alike were subjected to sympathetic and unsympathetic themes. Additionally, the explanations and subsequent policy discussions that were forwarded often aligned with the shooters’ motives, but also with the narratives that fit the news site’s political orientation.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).