Talking about School Bullying: News Framing of Who Is Responsible for Causing and Fixing the Problem

Sei Hill Kim, University of South Carolina
Matthew W. Telleen, Elizabethtown College


Our content analysis examines how American news media have framed the question of who is responsible for causing and solving the school bullying problem. We identified presence of considerable victim blaming in news coverage. Among potential causes examined, victims and their families were mentioned most often as being responsible. When talking about how to solve the problem, the media were focusing heavily on schools and teachers, while bullies and their families - the direct source of the problem - were mentioned least often. We also found that liberal newspapers were focusing more than conservative papers on social-level responsibilities, while conservative papers were more likely than liberal papers to attribute responsibility to individuals, suggesting that the political orientations of news organizations can affect which level of responsibility will be highlighted. Drawing upon the notion of frame building, we discuss in detail how several internal and external factors of news organizations can affect their selective uses of frames.