The Columbine victims and the myth of the juvenile superpredator

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    Abstract

    This study examines the news media coverage of the 1999 Columbine school shootings, as a component of a noted crime myth of the juvenile superpredator. Thematic content analysis was conducted on 683 articles selected from print and broadcast media, revealing four themes of coverage, including the identification and description of the victims, details of victims' deaths, coverage of memorial services, and other special social issues such as race, religion, and gun control. Chronological analysis of article distribution revealed four spikes in volume of coverage, which is associated with media reframing of the victims coverage to maintain the salience of the story. The Columbine victim coverage reaffirms the crime myth of the juvenile superpredator and reifies the punitive juvenile justice solutions suggested in alarmist responses to erroneous fears about growing rates and severity of youth violence. The impact of the superpredator myth on public discourse about Columbine and similar cases is explored.

    Original languageBritish English
    Pages (from-to)351-366
    Number of pages16
    JournalYouth Violence and Juvenile Justice
    Volume5
    Issue number4
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Oct 2007

    Keywords

    • Columbine
    • Crime myths
    • Delinquency
    • Media framing
    • School violence

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