Media construction of a school shooting as a social problem

Meron Wondemaghen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The Monash University shooting which occurred in 2002, in Melbourne Australia, is analysed using claims-making theory and the four-stage natural history model of social problems. As Spector and Kitsuse argue, social problems are what people think they are rather than objective problems. This incident - a shooting of two classmates by a mentally ill offender who suffered from persecutory delusions - was framed as a gun problem rather than a socially or psychologically related crime. In doing so, journalists made claims or emphasised the claims of selected voices in order to promote a specific social problem over others and, in turn, reinforce political arguments for tougher gun laws and policy measures. The implication with this type of coverage is that it results in not addressing appropriately the real causes of the problem; in this case violence as a coping mechanism by a mentally ill offender. This study offers a useful model to study media reporting of a claimed social problem and its influence in the policy process, decision and development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)696 - 712
Number of pages17
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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