The Philadelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting: Our first six months, July through December, 2020

Complications from the COVID-19 pandemic haven’t been helping and the epidemic of gun violence continues to expand at unprecedented rates but the Philadelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting has continued making steady progress during our first six months.

The Center was created to advance and locally implement work started by The Initiative to Better Gun Violence Reporting, exploring the hypothesis that changing the way journalists report on gun violence could actually prevent shootings and save lives.

The Center strives to break down barriers and enable collaboration between two communities: People burdened with the harm done by gun violence and journalists interested in making a difference.

Goals include providing support and training for community representatives who want to tell stores from their perspectives, addressing the impact of gun violence, root causes and possible solutions. This work is also intended to expand networks between groups, build trusting relationships and increase engagement to identify new expert sources and reach new audiences.

We are grateful to the Institute for Community Engagement and Civic Leadership at Community College of Philadelphia for their trust and confidence while making us feel at home.

The Center’s web site includes extensive resources for both community and professional journalists reporting on gun violence, comprehensive local and national data, program information, a directory of local gun violence prevention organizations, information for people affected by gun violence in Philadelphia, links to all of our partners and channels for communication.

The site is also home to the Weekly Philadelphia Gun Violence Tracker which is also excerpted in local news site Billy Penn’s email newsletter every Wednesday. Each edition leads with the latest data but also delivers news related to new research, community action, evidence-based solutions and more.

The centerpiece of our first year is the Credible Messenger Reporting Project, where community reporters are paired with professional journalists to build trusting relationships, learn from each other, craft stories together and get the news out where it can make a difference.

Project design, implementation and launch followed numerous stakeholder calls with local journalists, community representatives and partnering organizations. A copy of the community application is also built into the web site at Mothers in Charge, one of the city’s leading violence prevention communities.

Representatives from The Philadelphia Inquirer and WURD Radio have reached out about organizational partnerships and more discussions are planned.

At the same time, we are developing a research agenda to measure outcomes in reporting and then look for impact on rates of violence. Additional research projects are already underway and we assisted on one recent study establishing that half of Philadelphia shooting victims go uncovered in the news.

Early support has been provided by the Independence Public Media Foundation, the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund, the Douty Foundation and Resolve Philadelphia.

The Fels Lab at the University of Pennsylvania has matched a student from their Master of Public Administration program who will be joining our team to produce his capstone project this spring.

Looking ahead, the advancement staff at the University of Missouri School of Journalism has offered continued advising on development and a small, local communications and development agency has been providing pro bono prospect research.

Were are hopeful that another grant application presently under consideration will provide funding to hire at least two part-time community liaisons.

In 2021, the Center will formalize an advisory board, inviting members from our partnering organizations, which presently include media, scientific and community organizations.

Our friends at The Trace — the only national news organizations focused exclusively on gun violence and prevention — recently made their first-ever local hire here in Philadelphia and we look forward to collaborating as they launch their first project soon.

Center founder Jim MacMillan completed a fellowship at the Reynolds Journalism Institute in October and has been invited and is participating on advisory panels serving the Philadelphia Obituary Project, which honors the lives of our neighbors lost to homicide, and Seeking Solutions: Gun Violence in Missouri, a collaboration between Report for America and the Kansas City Star.

MacMillan has also met (online) recently with public officials including Philadelphia City Council member Jamie Gauthier and U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, who each reached out to open channels for possible collaborations. The offices of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro also checked in last year.

The Center has started to attract media media coverage, including reports from The Marshall ProjectNonprofit QuarterlyGenerocity and Technically Philly. NBC Philadelphia recently cited the Center as a data source.

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Thank you!

The Philadelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting