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June 7, 2024 14 mins
You see it every morning on the news. the overnight shooting. The police tape, the bullets encircled by chalk on the ground. New studies show coverage of gun violence can re-traumatize survivors. Two new studies published in Preventive Medicine Reports and BMC Public Health led by corresponding author Jessica H. Beard, MD, MPH, FACS, Associate Professor of Surgery in the Division of Trauma and Surgical Critical Care and Director of Trauma Research at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, more closely examine how reports of community firearm violence are framed on local television news in Philadelphia and the downstream effects of that coverage on the general public’s perception of the issue.

The Philadelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting has created  “Better Gun Violence Reporting: A Toolkit for minimizing Harm. 
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Episode Transcript

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(00:00):
I'm still kind of old school.I get up in the morning, I
turn on the TV and I checkout the news, mostly to get the
traffic and weather, but of course, unavoidably I will be seeing reporting of
violence that happened overnight, shootings withpolice tape and bullets circled in chalk on
the asphalt. What is the impactof seeing this day after day after day.

(00:23):
We have an answer to that.Two new studies published in Preventative Medicine
Reports and BMC Public Health, ledby corresponding author doctor Jessica Beard, Associate
Professor of Surgery in the Division ofTrauma and Surgical Critical Care and Director of
Trauma Research at the Lewis Katz Schoolof Medicine at Temple University, took a

(00:44):
look at how reports of community firearmviolence are framed on local TV news and
what the impact is on all ofus. So we have doctor Beard with
us today. Thank you so muchfor joining us again, thanks for having
me. We are inundated with imagesof violence day after day, but let's
break it down and talk about thecontent that we are actually consuming and what

(01:07):
you found distinguishes that in terms ofthe impact on the average listener. So
give us a summary of some ofyour findings. We had two new research
studies just get published and they aresomewhat related to each other, and what
they both are is what's called contentanalysis of media reports. So in twenty

(01:30):
twenty one, we've downloaded around seventhousand TV news clips from all four local
television stations in Philadelphia at several timesper day. So we have this sample
of clips, and then we tooka subset of clips because we obviously can't
watch all of those clips and codethen. And what we wanted to understand
is what reporting on gun violence lookslike in Philadelphia and now in twenty twenty

(01:56):
four. It really tells us whatit looks like during this incrediblely, you
know, terrible peak in gun violencethat we had really in the history of
our city. We know from previouswork on what news reports look like on
gun violence that at least back inthe nineties, they were mostly episodic crime
reports. Episodic meaning that they talkedabout the single shooting event without context,

(02:17):
and the crime part meaning that theperspectives of police or law enforcement representatives are
kind of the primary perspective that arepresented. And what we found when we
looked at those clips. Is thatthat's still the case, even in twenty
twenty one in Philadelphia, even ata time when we know that we have
solutions to gun violence that use publichealth tools that extend far beyond policing.

(02:42):
So in our research, we foundthat eighty percent, so the vast majority
of clips are episodic. More thanhalf of the clips really had the police
as the main narrator, even whenthe police weren't there being shown, The
journalists often attributed information to police.Very few stories used what we consider to
be elements of a public health frame. So very rarely did we hear about

(03:07):
causes of gun violence, solutions togun violence, and see or hear from
people who were actually injured. Infact, none of the clips that we
watched had someone like me as anarrator or a firearm injured person as a
narrator. I do have a questionbecause in your report you found that eighty
four point four percent of the clipscontained at least one harmful content element.

(03:30):
What do you mean by that?Yeah, So, we had done a
previous study where we interviewed our patientsat Temple who had been shot, and
we asked them about news reports ontheir injuries, and we listened to them
when we heard from them the thingsthat they consider to be harmful, things
like graphic imagery, information that couldexpose them, like the treating hospital that

(03:52):
they were at, their clinical condition, and things that could harm their reputation.
So we actually looked for those whenwe were looking at these clips.
We found that the clips contain alot of harmful content according to fire injured
people. We have an ongoing researchstudy that's really looking at how to define
what is harmful reporting, not justfrom the perspectives of injured people, but

(04:14):
also from the perspectives of our society. Not too long ago, you and
I were on a panel. Imoderated it. You were one of the
panel members, and it was fora movie. I was following a movie
showing the premiere of Second Trauma,which focused on the impact of media reporting
on survivors. And the two survivorsthat were interviewed were amazing and so eloquent,

(04:36):
and in both cases they talked abouthow often in the rush to get
to be first, which is reallyone of the operating motivations of many news
operations, they sometimes they got itwrong sometimes and in getting it wrong that
again could cause harm to those whoare the survivors or the families of the

(04:58):
victims, and also just constantly beingbarraged by those episodic reports that you talk
about. We're very traumatizing and itretraumatized people. So your research really quantifies
what all this means. Speaking tothose two people, you got to understand

(05:18):
from a very visceral and personal pointof view what the impact was on these
two people who lost loved ones togun violence. Yeah, I mean,
I definitely agree that in addition tothe numbers and the research that there is
a very personal side to this impact. When we talk to our patients and

(05:40):
certainly as we heard from folks inthe second trauma, there's a lot of
re traumatizing that's happening when these storiesare being told, when graphic content is
present, When survivors and co victimsfeel that they've lost control over the narrative.
That's something that's really important when you'veexperienced the traumas to have control over

(06:00):
your story. So I work withan organization called the Philadelphia Center for Gun
Violence Reporting, and one of thethings that we do is help survivors to
tell their stories with their own narratives. In addition to this research. So
that's an absolutely very important part ofthis work. When you talk about the
big vast conglomerate, the industrial media, prison a complex, you know,

(06:27):
the thing that rules us all.We're in the matrix. But when you
talk about all of that, there'scertainly certain economic factors that influence reporting,
and as I alluded to before,quite frequently it's about getting that story first
and doing it in the most economicalway possible, and often sending out reporters

(06:48):
who don't have a great deal ofexperience or perhaps understanding of what the issues
are. They come in and theythrow them out there into the lionstan and
they have to go ahead and reportthat. So there's this whole, big
structure that is in place that worksagainst perhaps the goals that you and others

(07:09):
like you and me too would liketo see, which is more thoughtful and
considerate reporting. So this big icebergyou're chipping away. But I'm wondering,
from your perspective, if stations,if from the news media, whatever their
platform is, began to report thingsin a different way, how does that

(07:30):
influence policy? How does that influencesocietal attitudes? Do you think speculating a
little bit. Yeah. I mean, I think we know very clearly that
news reports can shape public perception.We know that people that consume a lot
of television news actually have a negativeworldview, and so as people consume certain

(07:51):
types of news reports, they're goingto look at the world a certain way.
You know. One of our theoriesof change is that if we can
present, if we can support thepresentation of gun violence as preventable and not
inevitable, if we can help journaliststo develop skills and tools to tell the
stories of gun violence in a traumainformed way that doesn't retraumatize all of us.

(08:16):
And finally, if we can helpjournalists to tell the stories of gun
violence with a public health frame,that ultimately we'll have a more informed public
that then knows what to ask forwhen it comes to solutions to gun violence.
One of the things that also hascome out with these papers is the
Better Gun Violence Reporting Toolkit from thePhiladelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting. So

(08:37):
that's a toolkit and a tool thatwe hope that journalists will use. And
while we understand that certainly there aresystemic factors that prevent us from telling the
best stories possible. Inside of thistoolkit that are recommendations for sort of things
that we can do on a oneto one scale or an individual scale,

(08:58):
or within stories, things like ifyou're telling a story about a mass shooting
or about the shooting of a womanor a child, to emphasize that those
things are rare, you know,to use words when you talk about people
who've survived or lost their lives togun violence, like husband or father,
humanizing language. And then to reallytry to present solutions to gun violence and
to frame gun violence as preventable.During this panel discussion, I did note

(09:24):
that in my own personal opinion,I didn't see a lot of change happening,
because I do, you know,get up, watch the news,
see the police tape, et ceteraevery day. But I was corrected.
What are some of the positive thingsthat you're seeing as a result of the
work that you and the Philadelphia Centerfor Gun Violence Reporting have been engaged in.
Yeah, I mean, I thinkit's a great question. You know,

(09:46):
what is the impact of this workand are we changing reporting on television
news. It's something that we're hopingto kind of look into with research.
But I think that adding kind ofscientific understanding around this is an elevation of
the issue, and as you wereat screening of the Second Truma, there
were hundreds of people there and manypeople who have been impacted by gun violence.

(10:07):
And I think it's really important forall of us to acknowledge that we
recognize that there are harms that arehappening with the way these stories are reported,
and some of that is about sortof media literacy as well. Right,
so now maybe all of us understandthat this reporting is harmful, and
we do our part to try tomake it better, if that makes sense.

(10:31):
Some of the things that's come outof the work of the Philadelphia Center
for Gun Violence Reporting that's been directlyinformed by our research is again the toolkit
that I mentioned, but also anovel training program and gun violence prevention reporting,
the Gun Violence Prevention Reporting Certification workshopthat we held as a pilot last
fall that you attended that I thinkwe're also hoping to host a much larger

(10:54):
event coming in this year, andso I think just giving journalists tools to
make some decisions about the way storiesare framed is where we're going. And
one of the reasons why we've chosento focus on minimizing harm is that we've
really seen that the impacts on peopleare really true and really there, and
so elevating that perspective I think isreally important. If I could just say,

(11:18):
you know, there were two papershere. The other paper looked at
if I watched the news, whatwould I understand about gun violence? And
so from the public health perspective,it's kind of like, how much does
the epidemiology or the numbers or who'simpacted by gun violence? How much does
is that reflected on the news.And so we compared the people that make
the news, that get reports,and then the people who actually get shot.

(11:41):
In Philadelphia, we found that childrenwere more likely to make the news,
mass shootings were more likely to makethe news significantly so. And then
something that's really never been shown before, but that makes sense to folks who
watch the news and who have beenimpacted by gun violence, is that shootings
that occurred actually in higher income areaswith less income and equality and less racialized

(12:05):
segregation, we're more likely to makethe news. And you mentioned before like
what are some of the policy implicationsof kind of having this type of understanding
of gun violence? And I thinkwe see them enacted, right, there's
a lot of focus on banning assaultweapons and addressing very rare public mass shootings.
And when you ask hold the public, they think mass shootings are far

(12:26):
more common than they are, anda lot of our approaches address mass shootings.
So I think what this research kindof uncovers and just re emphasizes is
that we need to make sure thatwe really prioritize preventing the most common forms
of gun violence or community firearm violenceand not take resources away from the places

(12:46):
that need them the most, ifyou will, because we could imagine that's
a policy implication of presenting gun violencein an accurate way to the public.
Yeah, Well, if anyone wantsmore information about the work that you're doing,
and also about the work of thePhiladelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting,
how do they find out more?The Philadelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting is

(13:07):
the internet PCGVR dot org. There'skind of three main parts to PCGVR,
the Credible Messengers Reporting Project that Imentioned, our research, and then our
journalism education program, so all ofus their information about our director, Jim
McMillan is there, and then howto contact us as well. We're doing
screenings of the second trauma of onLadie and Aronde McLain's documentary, so you

(13:31):
could definitely learn more about us.Yeah, that's a great resource for all.
And then if people want to lookat your reports, your two studies,
how do they find out more aboutthat? They are both open access.
Anyone can read them. You don'thave to pay to read them.
Perhaps maybe I could share them thelinks with you. Be sure to have
them in the podcast version of thisinterview, so anyone who wants to click

(13:54):
through and read the reports, whichare fascinating, will be able to do
that. I want to thank youso much for all the great work that
you're doing, doctor Jessica Beard,who is Associate Professor of Surgery in the
Division of Trauma and Surgical Critical Careand Director of Trauma Research the Lewis Katz
School of Medicine at Temple and alsovery much involved with the Philadelphia Center for

(14:15):
Gun Violence Reporting doing excellent work toraise our awareness and how the media can
do better when it comes to coveringgun violence. Thank you so much,
Thank you, Larn
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