Because black people commit nearly every fatal/nonfatal shooting in Philadelphia, black journalists and trauma surgeons agree local media shouldn’t report on individual black violence because it hurts black people’s feelings.
Stop doing ‘breaking news’ for more accurate gun violence coverage, panel says: One solution: Build relationships to restore trust in local media, by Beatrice Forman, BillyPenn.com, April 1, 2022
Here’s something you might not expect to hear from a reporter: stop covering “breaking” news — at least when it comes to crime.
That was one of the most striking takeaways from Friday’s Shift the Narrative panel. Sponsored by the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, the Philadelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting, and Firelight Media, the virtual conversation centered on a question that’s asked a lot in Philly: How can journalists cover gun violence in ways that rebuild community trust — and don’t retraumatize survivors?
Last month, West Philly and Kensington residents told Billy Penn that constant coverage of individual shootings and a climbing homicide rate not only breeds disillusionment, but also ignores grassroots anti-violence efforts.
These blindspots make sense. Eyewitness and Action News broadcast formats emerged in Philadelphia as a way to make news profitable, with an overemphasis on crime that padded network pockets but isolated Black viewers.
Moderated by PABJ President and Philadelphia magazine editor-at-large Ernest Owens, the conversation asked researchers, community leaders, and journalists to consider the limits of standard crime coverage as gun violence continues to impact households indiscriminately.
More than 500 shootings have occurred since the start of 2022, which is slightly down from last year’s record pace, but still much higher than before the pandemic. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw recently said PPD officers can’t keep up with the pace of violence.
Panelists included Philadelphia Sun reporter Denise Clay-Murray and Temple University Hospital trauma surgeon-slash-gun violence researcher Jessica Beard, alongside the founders of three local anti-violence nonprofits: Philly Truce, Mothers in Charge, and the Young Chances Foundation.
Conclusions? Journalists need to stop framing coverage around individual shootings and start forging relationships with neighborhoods that don’t center on an information transaction.