Center for Gun Violence Reporting launches to prevent shootings, save lives

Community College of Philadelphia

The Initiative for Better Gun Violence Reporting will create a new Center for Gun Violence Reporting in Philadelphia that focuses on preventing shootings and saving lives by changing the narrative around this public health crisis.

The Center will be housed at the Institute for Community Engagement and Civic Leadership at Community College of Philadelphia, with support from the Philadelphia COVID-19 Community Information Fund.

The Center will improve reporting on community gun violence by collaborating with journalists and local organizations to raise voices from neighborhoods and broaden the range of expert sources quoted in stories – de-emphasizing the predominant law enforcement narrative.

“Gun violence is a tragedy affecting our communities that we know is preventable,” said Dr. Donald “Guy” Generals, president of Community College of Philadelphia. “The City’s college is the perfect home for the Center for Gun Violence Reporting, because we share the mission of raising community voices to overcome some of the biggest challenges in Philadelphia.”

The Center will be led by longtime Philadelphia multimedia journalist Jim MacMillan, who has been developing the project during his fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri.

“Jim did a terrific job of laying the groundwork for this new Center during his fellowship,” said RJI’s Executive Director Randy Picht. “He’s passionate about giving the news industry the knowledge, strategies and encouragement to be at its best when reporting and writing stories that involve gun violence. We’re excited to see this next chapter unfold.”

Programs developed at the Center will include community training sessions on issues such as media literacy, finding better sources, and holding civic leaders accountable. The Center will also create opportunities for members of affected communities to meet with traditional journalists and learn from each other.

Building these trusting relationships will empower vulnerable populations to tell, publish and distribute their own stories. This will help community gun violence to be addressed as a public health challenge that can be eradicated with intervention, education and the pursuit of economic justice.

“Imagine if news coverage of community gun violence in America looked more like the reporting seen around the coronavirus,” MacMillan said. “Instead of watching shallow coverage from the latest crime scenes with only police providing information, news consumers might learn about the causes of – and ways to prevent – gun violence, the latest data in context, or how to keep themselves and their families safe.”

Reports from several cities show elevated rates of COVID-19 cases in the same neighborhoods suffering the most gun violence, suggesting that the same social inequities fuel both epidemics. These overlapping challenges create channels for communication and opportunities for intervention.

IBGVR was among several organizations to receive support from the Philadelphia COVID-19 Community Information Fund, which is led by the Independence Public Media Foundation and the Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund.

“Channeling Philadelphia’s spirit, we asked applicants to share with us what love looks like in action. This group of grantees exemplifies those defining characteristics with a mutual-aid approach to news and information,” said Roxann Stafford, managing director of the Knight-Lenfest Fund. “When information is provided in a way that resonates and respects the community, people are able to make the best decisions for themselves, their communities, and those they love.”

In addition to launching the Center for Gun Violence Reporting, IBGVR is collaborating on a new gun violence prevention podcast, working to fund a documentary on restorative justice, developing a newsroom training curriculum, organizing data resources, and advising a project to help families who have lost loved ones to homicide.

“The experts in our network give us many reasons to believe the strategy of changing the narrative will help prevent community gun violence,” MacMillan said. “I’m grateful to all of our collaborators, and these new developments will help us take the work to new levels.”