'The Columbine Effect:' The Social Construction of a News Media Narrative

Glenn W. Muschert, Purdue University

This article explores the news media term "the Columbine Effect," which was coined in the December 6, 1999 issue of Time magazine. The media use "Columbine Effect" to refer to what they described as the increased creation of zero tolerance policies and other punitive measures for dealing with school violence that followed the 1999 Columbine shootings. Drawing on content analysis of mainstream national news media sources (New York Times, CNN, and Time magazine), I examine three issues: First, I describe the emergence and meaning of the term "The Columbine Effect." Second, I trace the evolution of the term over time. Third, I compare the media's usage of the term, and compare that usage to criminological studies, to assess the veracity of the media's claim that a "Columbine Effect" has in fact occurred.

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Updated 05/20/2006