When news broke on the morning of December 14, 2012, that a gunman had opened fire on an elementary school in Newtown, CT, major media outlets immediately descended on the scene, providing breathless non-stop coverage that got steadily more alarming as details trickled out and the death count grew. With the nation watching in horror, the small Connecticut town became a collective trauma that spurred the first sustained push for gun regulation in years.
On Monday morning, another school — this time in Sparks, Nevada — was thrown into chaos when a seventh grader brought in his parents’ semi-automatic handgun and shot a teacher, two 12-year-old boys, and himself. Local news outlets, notably the Reno Gazette-Journal, immediately and thoroughly reported the developing story on the ground. But as the tragedy unfolded, major cable news channels chose not to cover it as a breaking news event, only mentioning the shooting sparingly throughout the day.
According to a ThinkProgress analysis of the media monitoring site TVEyes between 10 am EST on October 21 and midnight, Fox News and MSNBC barely discussed the Sparks Middle School shooting on Monday. Fox News had nine mentions of the shooting, while MSNBC talked about the shooting just five times. CNN’s coverage was more regular, mentioning the keyword “Sparks” 19 times.
By contrast, another breaking news event on Tuesday attracted a flurry of media attention. The hype surrounding Apple’s press conference releasing the new iPad and iPad mini started growing hours before the event. All in all, the Apple event got more coverage than the Sparks shooting on all three channels: CNN mentioned the Apple event 23 times on Tuesday, while Fox News mentioned it 12 times and MSNBC mentioned it nine times.
Media fatigue for the now regular mass shootings has grown since a bipartisan bill to expand background checks on gun purchases failed despite overwhelming popular support. Still, gun violence hardly paused after Newtown. For example, the Navy Yard shooting that killed 12 people and wounded 8, was merely a blip on the radar for most Americans. Sadly, the Sparks Middle School shooting may go the same way.