While news reports of the two most recent mass shootings, in Boulder, Co., and Atlanta, suggest that the two instances are a dramatic resurgence of violence after a year of quiet, mass shootings actually only slowed under a commonly used but restrictive definition that leaves out most mass-casualty incidents, especially when considering the race of the victims, reports Slate. In 2020, mass shootings disproportionately occurred in majority-Black neighborhoods and received limited national media attention, regardless of the amount of casualties. A recent study published in the journal Sociology of Race and Ethnicity about shooting victims in Chicago found Black people killed in predominantly Black neighborhoods in the city in 2016 received roughly half as much news coverage as white people killed in majority white neighborhoods, and were less likely to be discussed as “multifaceted, complex people.”
In addition, definitions of what constitutes a “mass shooting” also seem to have influenced coverage choices with organizations like The Violence Project, whose data has been cited by several news organizations in the wake of the Atlanta and Boulder shootings, only counting incidents where four or more people were killed in a public place with no connection to any underlying criminal activity or commonplace circumstance and, as a result, excluding many high-casualty shootings that occur in marginalized communities, including those stemming from domestic violence or community conflicts. By overlooking violence that happened in majority-Black communities over the past year, news organizations send an implicit signal about which forms of violence legislators and the broader public should mobilize to stop.