Faculty Publications

Publication Date



Journalism Studies | Mass Communication | Television


In the 1990s, three relatively high-profile tragedies occurred in which popular media products (including movies, recorded music, television talk shows, the Internet, tabloid newspapers, and video games) were argued to be the primary cause. This study analyzes the discourse surrounding the culpability that was placed on popular culture in major newspaper coverage of the car crash that killed Princess Diana, the murder associated with the “Jenny Jones” show, and the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. The analysis reveals patterns in the assignment of blame—and relatively more rarely of exoneration—of popular culture, interpreting why and how popular culture was targeted as a cause of the tragedies.

Document Type

Accepted Version


This article is the author-created version that incorporates referee comments. It is the accepted-for-publication version. The content of this version may be identical to the published version (the version of record) save for value-added elements provided by the publisher (e.g., copy editing, layout changes, or branding consistent with the rest of the publication).


©2003 SAGE Publications.

Original Citation

Erica Scharrer, Lisa M. Weidman, Kimberly Bissell
Pointing the finger of blame: news media coverage of popular-­culture culpability.
Journalism & Communication Monographs, 2003, volume 5, issue 2, pages 48-98



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