Making the news: Victim characteristics associated with media reporting on firearm injury

Prev Med. 2020 Dec:141:106275. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2020.106275. Epub 2020 Oct 4.


Firearm injury is a public health crisis in the United States. Selective media coverage may contribute to incomplete public understanding of firearm injury. To better understand how firearm injury is communicated to the public, we analyzed media coverage of intentional, interpersonal shootings in 3 U.S. cities. We hypothesized that multiple shootings and fatal shootings would be more likely to make the news, as would shootings affecting children, women, and white individuals. We compared police department data on shootings to media reports drawn from the Gun Violence Archive (GVA) for 2017 in Philadelphia, PA, Rochester, NY, and Cincinnati, OH. GVA reports were matched to police data by shooting date, location, victim age, and gender. Matched victims were compared to unmatched using chi2 tests for categorical variables and Kruskal Wallis tests for continuous variables. Philadelphia police reported 1216 firearm assault victims; Cincinnati police reported 407; and Rochester police reported 178. News reports covered 562 (46.2%), 222 (54.6%), and 116 (65.2%) victims, respectively. Fatal shootings were more often reported as were shootings involving multiple victims or women. Half of shooting victims did not make the news. Selective reporting likely limits awareness of the public health impact of firearm injury. Researchers and policy makers should work with journalists and editors to improve the quantity and content of reporting on firearm injury.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Cities
  • Female
  • Firearms*
  • Gun Violence*
  • Humans
  • Philadelphia
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Wounds, Gunshot* / epidemiology