October 2, 2015
Obama addresses the media on Thursday after the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. (AP Photo)

Obama addresses the media on Thursday after the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. (AP Photo)

When he took the lectern to address reporters in the wake of the mass shooting that left 10 dead at Umpqua Community College in Oregon Thursday, President Obama was visibly frustrated.

He talked about the deadening routine of gun violence and the monotonous media coverage that follows.

He talked about the fleeting heartache that attends massacres and the short-winded calls to overhaul gun laws.

And he had a request for the media: Put the death toll in perspective by comparing the thousands of Americans killed by gun violence with those killed by terrorism. He wanted reporters and editors throughout the United States to provide context illustrating the disproportionate amount of people murdered with guns every year:

I would ask news organizations, because I won’t put these facts forward — have news organizations tally up the number of Americans who’ve been killed through terrorist attacks in the last decade, and the number of Americans who’ve been killed by gun violence, and post those side by side on your news reports.

But like President Obama, the media is by now well-schooled in responding to mass shootings. Every time a killer tears a community apart, the media rushes in to fill the void with exhaustive coverage that includes historical context putting the numbers in proportion. Here are a few examples:

Vox took Obama’s request literally, comparing the exact statistics he requested:


CNN followed suit:


So did Mother Jones:


Later in the day, Mother Jones tweeted a chart from 2014 showing the shortening span between shootings:


On Thursday, Vox published 17 charts illustrating gun violence in America. It included this comparison of guns owned by Americans to guns owned by the rest of the world:


To put Obama’s grieving into context, The New York Times published a supercut of the president’s public appearances immediately after shootings:

And the New York Daily News devoted its front page (as it often does) to a boldfaced condemnation of gun violence, along with a count of those killed since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.


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Benjamin Mullin was formerly the managing editor of Poynter.org. He also previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow,…
Benjamin Mullin

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