How media reporting on firearm violence does more harm than good

By It's All Journalism | August 3, 2023

Stoneleigh Fellow Jessica Beard joined the It’s All Journalism podcast to speak about the strategies that journalists can use to improve their reporting on gun violence.

Dr. Jessica Beard is a trauma surgeon at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, the hospital that receives and treats the largest number of patients injured by firearms in the entire state of Pennsylvania.

“When I first came to Philadelphia, I went to the news to try and understand some specific things about the patients I might not get to meet before they pass away before I get to meet them, but also the circumstances of the why (they were injured by firearms),” she says. “Instead of deep contextual reporting, what I found largely in media reporting about firearm violence is what I later learned are these very episodic crime reports, short narratives with law enforcement narrators that are very short on context — ‘A 25-year-old man was shot on the corner of Broad and Tioga. He was transported to Temple University Hospital where he’s in critical condition. The police have no motives and no arrests.’ I thought, wow, if that’s what the public is understanding about gun violence and this part of the human toll, the root causes of which are related to deeply entrenched structural and social determinants of health and racism, frankly, they really are not getting a complete sense of what gun violence is about.”

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