When tragedy strikes small: a comparative analysis of media narratives following the 2016 Excel Industries shooting in Hesston, Kansas and subsequent community response and recovery

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Gardiepy, Kelsay E.
Ballard-Reisch, Deborah
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The sleepy Mennonite town of Hesston, Kansas was suddenly disrupted on February 25th, 2016 when an employee of Excel Industries, a lawn care company, entered the company plant with an AK-47 and a Glock 22 semi-automatic pistol and opened fire. Three employees were killed and fourteen injured before the shooter was killed by a responding police officer. The tragedy made local and national news by the early evening and coverage continued for weeks. This two-part exploratory qualitative communication study focuses on the impact of media narratives and community response in the wake of local tragedy. In the first part of this study, a media analysis of twenty local, regional, national and international news articles that covered the 2016 Excel Industries shooting was conducted using elements of fantasy theme analysis and narratology. A comparative analysis was then performed to determine the similarities and differences among the four media categories. In the second part of this study, ten semi-structured interviews were conducted with community professionals of Hesston and Harvey County who were involved in a professional capacity following the Excel Industries shooting. A thematic analysis of interview data revealed four major themes with nine subthemes. This study provides insights from community professionals who directly dealt with the response and recovery phases of this local tragedy, how the Hesston community responded to this tragedy, offers advice from community professionals of Hesston and Harvey County specifically directed toward other communities who might face similar local crises in the future.

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Thesis (M.A.)--Wichita State University, Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Elliott School of Communication
Wichita State University
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