Supplemental: Where do journalistic frameworks come from, continued!


Australia's approach to guns:
Where do journalistic frameworks come from?

Yesterday, we posed that question with respect to homicides in Chicago, which are down by more than half since 1994.

Homicides are down by more than half? In many settings and situations, a change of that type would be viewed as progress.

Rightly or wrongly, Chicago's homicides are rarely viewed through that lens. This brings us to guns in Australia—more specifically, to gun deaths in that distant land.

In Australia, gun deaths are down by more than half since 1996. A headline in today's New York Times shows us how that fact is typically viewed, at least in the mainstream press:

"How a Conservative-Led Australia Ended Mass Killings"

Rightly or wrongly, the situation in Chicago is typically viewed through the lens of mayhem, while the situation in Australia is typically viewed through the lens of glorious progress.

This morning, the Times even helps the war of the frameworks along. It seems to adopt a tougher standard for an Australian "mass killing" than it did, just two days ago, for an American "mass shooting."

Recalling that five is more than four, let's take a look at the record:

On Wednesday, Sharon LaFraniere reported that a "mass shooting" occurs in the U.S. more than once a day. Her report appeared on the Times' front page.

Gloomy headline included:
LAFRANIERE (12/3/15): How Often Do Mass Shootings Occur? On Average, Every Day, Records Show

More than one a day.

That is how often, on average, shootings that left four or more people wounded or dead occurred in the United States this year,
according to compilations of episodes derived from news reports.

Including the worst mass shooting of the year, which unfolded horrifically on Wednesday in San Bernardino, Calif., a total of 462 people have died and 1,314 have been wounded in such attacks this year, many of which occurred on streets or in public settings, the databases indicate.
In her gloomy report, LaFraniere adopted a rather lenient standard for a "mass shooting." A mass shooting has occurred if four people are "dead or wounded."

No one has to die at all! In his morning's upbeat report, Austin Ramzy seems to adopt a tougher standard for a "mass killing."

Upbeat headline included:
RAMZY (12/5/15): How a Conservative-Led Australia Ended Mass Killings

In the continuing debate over how to stop mass killings in the United States, Australia has become a familiar touchstone.

President Obama has cited the country’s gun laws as a model for the United States, calling Australia a nation “like ours.” On the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton has said the Australian approach is “worth considering.” The National Rifle Association has dismissed the policies, contending that they “robbed Australians of their right to self-defense and empowered criminals” without reducing violent crime.

The oft-cited statistic in Australia is a simple one: There have been no mass killings—defined by experts there as a gunman killing five or more people besides himself—since the nation significantly tightened its gun control laws almost 20 years ago.
Ramzy defers to Australian experts. In Australia, a mass killing requires the death of five people, not including the gunman.

As far as we know, there's nothing "wrong" with any of the reporting in these high-profile pieces. Beyond that, there's nothing "wrong" with either of those standards.

That said, these reports do help us see the way our journalists can see one glass half full, while the other glass is disastrously half empty. These reports can help us puzzle over the way journalistic frameworks are used.

Let's be clear. Chicago's homicide rate is still higher than Australia's ever was.

Let's be clear about something else. We're talking about two different sets of statistics here:

In yesterday's post about Chicago, we showed you the statistics for homicides of all kinds. In today's report about Australia, the Times is largely talking about "gun deaths," which are eventually broken up into homicides and suicides.


On Friday morning's Morning Joe, Steven Rattner ran through the statistics for Australian gun deaths. He also showed a few charts about gun ownership and gun deaths in the U.S. and other countries in the tiny amount of time he was given.

(To watch his two minutes, click here.)

Rattner stressed the decline in Australian gun deaths since 1996. A few days before, we had been somewhat surprised to see that homicides in Chicago had declined at almost exactly the same rate over that same period.

At least within the mainstream press, the decline in Australia tends to be presented as a triumph. By way of contrast, the decline in Chicago is virtually never mentioned. Within mainstream reporting and punditry, it basically doesn't exist.

One particular type of framework is built around Chicago. A substantially different framework obtains for events down under. Different definitions of "mass" seem to obtain, helping the frameworks along.

We aren't saying this practice is wrong, although on balance it pretty much is. We're saying it helps us frame a question:

Where do journalistic frameworks come from? And why are standard frameworks applied in such single-minded ways?


  1. Single minded Somerby wonders where single minded perspectives come from.

    1. Simple minded commenter thinks Somerby is single minded because he cannot understand anything beyond the simple himself.

    2. Commenter understands simple fact single minded Somerby drawing single digit comment boxes due to understanding readership moving on.

    3. Single digit comment boxes (11=single digit?) yet nitwit troll feels need to add to add to it

    4. Wow. Eleven! And you made it a dozen!! By only the second day!!!

      No wonder Your Howler has gotten such results that he feels the need to repeat his theme every few days.

  2. 432 murders in one city is still mayhem even if it is a lower number than previous years. Whether they are "mass" is irrelevant. It's around 30 San Bernardino massacres. It's a cultural problem that dwarfs any current Islamic or other terrorism problem in the US.

    1. What happened in San Bernardino is frightening because it is so random. Most murders are not random. They involve domestic disputes, are committed by people known to the victim, or are the result of gang and criminal activity (besides murder). Equating most murders with the very infrequent terrorist act is factually wrong and confuses the subject. I would agree that accidental gun deaths are a cultural problem, but murder has always been with us. When I was a child, a friend's father killed his entire family (wife & kids) with a hammer. Yes, guns make it easier, but most murders have causes that transcend means.

    2. Yes, guns as the means are not the problem. Cultural conditions that produce so many violent and apathetic people are more important.

  3. Gun control given their proliferation up to this point and in the future will not work to prevent most mass shootings and individual murders of either the kind that took place in CA or those taking place in Chicago.

    Cultural changes of the sort progs deeply oppose any mention of would be the only proven and possible solution but no intelligent person will hold his breath. It feels better to make perpetual victims out of groups and then become their warrior saviors on social media.

    1. Can you provide what some of these "cultural changes" might look like?

  4. Where do journalistic frameworks come from? I think we know. Liberals want to restrict gun ownership in various ways. Essentially, liberals are "anti-gun" and conservatives are "pro-gun". So, the media, which is predominantly liberal, give prominence to stories that support the "anti-gun" cause.

    They do this even though their stories may be contributing to mass shootings. There's a fairly convincing theory that many of these shootings are copy-cat crimes. That the shooters are motivated by the idea of getting to be well-known. So, rededuced reporting of mass shootings and fewer stories about the shooters might actually reduce tmass shootings. But, mass shootings help make the anti-gun case, so the media aren't going to play down those stories. And, to be fair, those stories do also attract the public.

    1. The media is not predominantly liberal. It is owned by conservative plutocrats and written/performed by people who are wealthy in their own right. Even junior journalists come from elite schools and are well-socialized in the ways of privilege and prosperity.

      The idea that there are copy-cat shootings has merit, but you will not get the media to skip reporting anything that attracts readers. People want to read these stories because they need to find enough details to reassure themselves that they are safe from whatever befell the victims of tragedy.

      You would need control of the media of the kind that exists in Great Britain to suppress stories about shootings. That isn't going to happen in the US because freedom of speech is part of our constitution. As a conservative, you should know that.

    2. I agree 7:01 that we're not going to get government suppression of reporting, because freedom of speech is part of the Consitution. I could imagine a voluntary agreement among media, perhaps requested by the government, not to give attention to these perps. Even that seems unlikely to happen IMHO.

      BTW we're also not going to see abolition of gun ownership like Australia's, because Right to Bear Arms is part of our Consitution. Also, gun ownership is popular among a large segment of voters.

      Bottom line seems to be that we're not going to take effective action to reduce mass killings. That's a shame.

    3. "Liberals want to restrict gun ownership in various ways."

      Yeah, David, Including preventing people already on known terrorist watch lists from buying assault rifles. But even that bill couldn't muster enough votes to bring it to a vote before the full Senate.

      But can you explain to me why a person such as yourself, so interested in protecting our constitutional rights, would so quickly sacrifice the First Amendment in order to preserve the Second?

    4. We were too dumb and ineffective to ever demand better journalistic frameworks. We still can't bring ourselves to understand the way our favorite newspapers have muddled the topic of gun control.

      They still say things like the ones shown above. We're too hopeless and soft to react.

    5. 8:48 -- I didn't mean to say we should sacrifice the First Amendment. I said that giving less publicity to perps might reduce the amount of mass killings. But, I didn't mean to say that the government should enforce such a rule or prohibition.

      Here's a sort-of parallel. In the early days of baseball on TV, a fan would sometimes jump out of the stands and run across the field. He was kicked out of the game, but generally not otherwise punished. At first, the TV people would follow the fan across the field. But, someone figured out that giving these people TV exposure encouraged the practice. So, the TV stations adopted a policy of not showing the misbehaving fan at all. That policy seems to have worked (although, for all I know, the punishment may have been strengthened.) Any, as far as I know, that policy was voluntarily adopted by the TV broadcasters. Or, maybe it was forced the major league baseball. Ei9ther way, it didn't happen by government mandate, so there was no Constitutional problem.

      I wish the TV stations would get together and voluntarily agree to reduce their coverage of mass murderers. But, I don't expect that to happen.

    6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    7. I'm hoping you didn't mean to say "the media is liberal" too, because that kind of babbling nonsense disqualifies anybody with a modicum of common sense from ever taking anything you say or write serious.

  5. "We aren't saying this practice is wrong, although on balance it pretty much is. We're saying it helps us frame a question:

    Where do journalistic frameworks come from? And why are standard frameworks applied in such single-minded ways?"

    Jesus Cristo. What nonsense.

    1. Perfect self-referential comment, 12:19!

    2. We aren't saying you are full of shit, 2:29, even though you pretty much are. We're saying two things are evident.

      We haven't figured things out after seventeen years.

  6. Certainly, one of the frameworks comes from the NRA. Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station has proposed one of the most brilliant ideas I’ve run across on the issue of gun control. No guns have to be taken (as if they would be). It’s really worth a look. He’s an entertaining writer, and real expert on the subject of guns and gun safety.

    The idea? Codify NRA gun safety rules into law.

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