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Gun Violence Center Urges News Media To 'Humanize' Coverage

News media coverage of gun violence may inadvertently perpetuate "stereotypical narratives" about the

people and communities most affected, says the Philadelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting. Typical

coverage focuses on individual episodes of gun violence and often lacks explanation of what causes it

and what could be done to prevent it.

The center says such practices can further stigmatize marginalized communities and promote fatalism around gun violence prevention.

The center contends that, "By changing the way gun violence is covered, reporters can make an active

step towards minimizing harm—and even make an important contribution towards preventing gun


On Wednesday, center staff members discussed a newly released "toolkit for minimizing harm in episodic stories." The publication was funded by the Stoneleigh Foundation.

The toolkit was the subject of a panel discussion at a "crime coverage summit" in Philadelphia hosted by the National Press Foundation and the Radio Television Digital News Association. The event was sponsored by the Arnold Ventures philanthropy.

The guide offers what it calls checklists to encourage ethical and empathetic gun violence reporting.

It urges journalists, when approaching someone who has experienced gun violence or who is closely connected to a victim, to take a trauma-informed approach.

This involves asking for consent at every step of the process (e.g. talking, documenting, recording, publishing, etc.), offering to have them review the piece prior to publishing, and asking if they would like to be left anonymous, and more.

Reporting from the scene of a shooting is not always advisable, the center says, as it can "often intentionally

or inadvertently sensationalize the event and further stigmatize those impacted."

The toolkit offers this advice to media representatives:

— Look for community context. Try to find a community representative willing to speak and provide context about structural factors and what community members or organizations are doing to address the problem.

— Look for someone who knows the victim and is willing to speak about victims so that you can present them empathetically.

— Use trauma-informed practices when approaching survivors and families. Understand that they may not be ready to talk immediately following a traumatic event like a shooting.

— Let community members and the family know how their participation will result in better reporting.

— Involve the community in the fact-checking process when possible.

— Seek out the expertise of people beyond the police, such as family members, activists, public health experts, and longtime community members.

— Whenever possible, quote a community leader and/or scholar about proved solutions to the gun violencde problem.k


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