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How News Media Can Improve Coverage Of Gun Violence

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Journalists can cover the scourge of gun violence in the U.S. better by focusing more on its causes and remedies rather than concentrating on case-by-case news reports, a conference was told this week.

Media should help to "reframe the discussion" by doing stories about science and health aspects of gun violence instead of merely reporting on one shooting after another, contended Elinor Tatum, publisher and editor of the Amsterdam News, a New York City newspaper which has done a series of stories and programs under the title "Beyond the Barrel of the Gun."

Tatum is an advocate of "solutions journalism," which tries to address solutions to social problems, not merely describing them.

"Let's change the way we cover" gun violence, Tatum urged, saying that the news media can't cover each case separately but should "give the overall picture ... connect the dots ... use a more holistic approach."

She was part of a panel discussion at the annual Harry Frank Guggenheim conference on violence sponsored by John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Journalism professor Jennifer Midberry of Lehigh University showed the audience what she said was a typical 15-second television report on a local shooting. Such "episodic framing" of a crime story perpetuates the notion that "there is nothing we can do" about gun violence, Midberry said.

A study of crime coverage by four local television stations in the Philadelphia area found only "superficial coverage" of the causes of gun violence and solutions to the problem, she said.

Reporter Jason Grotto of Bloomberg News took another tack, saying that few journalists take the trouble to investigate the gun industry.

Bloomberg has reported on the "huge uptick" in gun manufacturers, now numbering 18,000 in the United States, Grotto said. In recent years, the market has shifted to companies' making parts that allow individuals to make assault rifles themselves and avoid federal regulations, Grotto said.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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