Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Matthew W. Seeger


This content analysis of multiple mass shooting cases examines a crisis genre that is not as frequently studied as other crises such as natural disasters or organizational exigencies. Though just as rich with stakeholders’ communicative exchanges and neatly traversing the three crisis stages, mass shootings have yet to be fully elaborated. To further the examination of these crises, this dissertation identifies those actors who hold the principal stakes in the aftermath of a mass shooting incident, and explores what these stakeholders are saying. By applying focusing events and issue management theories, it uncovers the prominent public policy issues reported in national print news reporting following mass shootings. Three cases were analyzed for teasing out the nuances of this crisis type: 1) a theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado; 2) a school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut; and 3) a church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. At issue was what if any difference exists in the media coverage of the typical shooting incident, which stakeholder voices are most prominent, and what public policies emerge as dominant in the aftermath of a mass shooting.

The study suggests that community stakeholders are among the most referenced and widely quoted in the national press along with family members, national politicians and lawmakers. Therefore, as mass shootings unfold, it would be useful for policy makers and organizations interested in managing or advocating for community-related issues, post-shooting, to strengthen relationships with community stakeholders as these crises develop. This dissertation also notes how mass shootings activate not just a single issue, but they can magnetize several competing frames at once, depending on the specifics in each shooting case. Those responsible for managing issues for their organizations, particularly public policy issues, could benefit from insights into the emerging nature of these crises. Although common elements exist in mass shooting coverage, the notion that no two shootings are identical is confirmed. Frame-changing in the print media is a common feature as these exigencies unfold.