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TV Coverage Of Philadelphia Shootings Lacks Context: Study

Victims whose shootings were covered on local television news in Philadelphia were younger, more likely to be children and were more likely to be injured in a mass shooting, found a study of news coverage. Researchers also found that shootings featured on local television news were more likely to occur in areas with a higher median household income, lower rates of socioeconomic inequality and lower rates of racialized economic segregation. In a study published in Preventive Medicine Reports, Dr. Jessica Beard of Temple University and colleagues sought to identify the systematic differences between the characteristics of victims of firearm violence and the events covered on local television news compared with all shootings in Philadelphia. Researchers compiled news clips on shootings from all four local television stations on two randomly selected days per month from January-June 2021 for a total of 154 clips. These clips were matched with shootings in the Philadelphia Police Department database.

"Segments about community firearm violence on local television news are neither demographically nor geographically representative of both who – and where – is most disproportionally impacted in Philadelphia,” Beard said. She said another study of the subject "demonstrates that these segments also frequently contain harmful elements and lack the context necessary for a deeper understanding of the issue. These news stories may be the only window into community firearm violence that the general public has, and they often are not getting a complete picture, but instead one that research has indicated can lead audiences to blame victims, reinforce racist stereotypes and undermine effective public health responses." Beard noted that the

“Strides are being made in journalism to rectify these concerns,” Dr. Beard added. “In the past, guidelines were developed in cases of suicide, mass shootings, sexual assault, abuse, and crime involving minors, and newsroom practices were revised. Fortunately, new guidelines are being developed for reporting on community firearm violence." She cited a toolkit issued by the Philadelphia Center on Gun Violence Reporting on for minimizing harmful media reporting on community firearm violence.


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