Mass media has great influence over its audience. When a sensational story hits the news waves, the general public's attention is instantly riveted to the television screen. News stories that involve the deaths of innocent people often create a culture of fear, fuel false narratives, and scatter misinformation. In fact, this culture of fear, coupled with misleading information, created the myth of the juvenile superpredator, a phrase coined by DiIulio in the early 1990s. The stereotyped superpredator was a homicidal, uncontrollable youth hiding within areas where crime and violence are rare. In particular, this myth was propagated following the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999. Across time, misinformation and false narratives served to spotlight the perpetrators' notoriety—their ultimate motivation for perpetrating this heinous attack. News media, law enforcement, and school administrators are in the unique position to stop the spread of misinformation and prevent school shooters from gaining the fame they desperately seek, a common motivation among school shooters and copycat perpetrators. This study seeks to explore how the media portrayed the Columbine High School shooters and how it fed into the myth of the juvenile superpredator. This study analyzed youth violence risk factors in the wake of the Columbine High School Shooting to determine if news media was accurate in their reporting. We wanted to determine if news coverage was a major influence on the public's perception of youth violence. These risk factors were scrutinized from television news coverage from national news organizations. Results indicate that in the wake of school shootings, strong considerations regarding ethical news reporting and clearer lines of communication between school administrators and law enforcement officials may prevent misinformation from spreading in the first place and may prevent school shooters from gaining notoriety in such aftermaths. Additionally, curtailing the spread of misinformation may help communities prevent reactionary policies that ultimately harm school students through overly punitive measures.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Counseling Psychology and Special Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





school shootings, media coverage, Columbine school shooting, juvenile superpredator, notoriety



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Engineering Commons