Accuracy in Media

If you’re someone who closely follows mass shootings in America, then you might have noticed a strange phenomenon over the last two weeks. Nearly identical articles began popping up from the same two reporters over at USA Today, with variations on this headline: “Mass shootings surge in Tennessee as nation faces record high.”

The articles can be found for states such as Florida, Wisconsin, South Carolina, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The content of each article is eerily similar – as though copied and pasted, then filled in with each state’s specific death data and relevant information. 

What’s also strange is the fact that the articles all go on to contradict themselves by quoting James Alan Fox, a criminologist with Northeastern University. Fox claims that mass shootings are actually not surging as the headlines claim. In fact, we’re seeing a dip in mass shootings this year. According to the articles, “About the dip in mass killings becoming permanent,’ [Fox] said, ‘I’m somewhat hopeful.’”

Fox, who also oversees the Mass Killings Database, told Reason in 2019, “There is no evidence that we’re in the midst of an epidemic of mass shootings.” 

So why is USA Today now trotting out Fox in a series of nearly-identical articles that seek to prove the exact opposite? 

One theory is timing. These articles all appeared in the lead-up to Democrats announcing a big move on gun control. On Thursday, the House passed sweeping legislation that would expand background checks on all gun sales. 

According to CNN, the bills “will face a steep uphill climb in the Senate as Democrats hold a slim 50-50 majority and would need significant Republican support to overcome a legislative filibuster. Still, the legislation remains a priority for the Biden administration.”

Since the gun control debate has taken a back seat during the COVID-19 pandemic, that steep uphill climb might prove easier if Democrats had a good narrative to help them along. 

Is USA Today pushing mass shooting propaganda in an effort to help Democrats pass sweeping gun control legislation? If so, then that’s not journalism – it’s activism.  




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