Do the media unintentionally make mass killers into celebrities? An assessment of free advertising and earned media value
In recent years, some critics have suggested that the media make mass killers into celebrities by giving them too much attention. However, whether the media coverage these offenders receive actually approaches the amounts given to celebrities has never been tested. This study compared perpetrators of seven mass killings during 2013-2017 with more than 600 celebrities over the same time period. Findings indicate that the mass killers received approximately $75 million in media coverage value, and that for extended periods following their attacks they received more coverage than professional athletes and only slightly less than television and film stars. In addition, during their attack months, some mass killers received more highly valued coverage than some of the most famous American celebrities, including Kim Kardashian, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, and Jennifer Aniston. Finally, most mass killers received more coverage from newspapers and broadcast/cable news than the public interest they generated through online searches and Twitter seems to warrant. Unfortunately, this media attention constitutes free advertising for mass killers that may increase the likelihood of copycats.