Boy With Toy or Black Male With Gun: An Analysis of Online News Articles Covering the Shooting of Tamir Rice

Stone, Rebecca; Socia, Kelly M.
Race and Justice

The current study explores how online media framed the police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, OH. We conducted a qualitative content analysis of a large sample of online news articles published in the first 48 hours following the event. In doing so, we consider how online media outlets used headlines, narrative, quotes, and images to frame this emerging story. We find that the online news media framed the shooting of Rice in ways that largely supported the official police narrative of the event. Rice was projected as a noncompliant and threatening subject and the police as reacting out of concerns for public safety. Unlike international sources, relatively few domestic news sources linked this incident to the larger issues of race and police use of force in the United States. The dominant frame promotes a moral evaluation of the event that downplays police responsibility and promotes localized, nonsystemic solutions as opposed to wide-spread policing reform.