Better Gun Violence Reporting Summit: Report to funders, December, 2019

The inaugural Better Gun Violence Reporting Summit focused on media coverage of community gun violence and took place at WHYY in Philadelphia on November 8, 2019.

This event was made possible with support from The Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, The Lenfest Institute for JournalismWHYYThe Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, The Dart Center For Journalism and TraumaAction Tank and AH Datalytics.

Revisit the presentations

Now you can find an enhanced agenda linked from our home page menu with session summaries, presenter biographies, audio recordings from every panel and more resources linked within. Visit:

Summit recap

IBGVR Philadelphia operations coordinator Alison Burdo made this presentation at Klein News Innovation Camp at Temple University in November 2019, one week after the Summit. Go to:

Audio directory

Reporting notes

Online | Printable PDF

Media coverage

Professor Katherine Reed from the University of Missouri School of Journalism attended the summit and organized key takeaways for Nieman Reports:

Complete media coverage directory:

The day in pictures

View the complete photographic report at:


We received 198 advance orders for a total of 223 tickets after launching the event site during the ONA conference in September. Another 30 walk-ups checked in with our team at the event and we had about 20 unclaimed name tags at the end of the day, though about half of them belonged to people we saw in attendance. Our best assessment of this information leads us to estimate we had a total of 243 attendees at some point during the day.

Attendees checked in from The New York Times to the Los Angeles Times, as well as from Chicago, Orlando, Boston and more. Journalists also came from The Associated Press, Newsy and SB Nation, as well as from newsrooms in smaller cities such as Allentown and Flint.

Most of our attendees came from along the Northeast Corridor.

The largest cluster came from Philadelphia and surrounding cities and towns.

Special guests

The event also attracted researchers, educators, students, advocates, first responders, community representatives, policy makers, public officials and clinicians: About a dozen doctors, nurses and medical students from the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University wore their white coats while attending all day.

A group of journalism students from Philadelphia’s George Washington Carver High School were in attendance.

Philadelphia Fire Department Deputy Commissioner for Emergency Medical Services Crystal Yates attended. Officials were also present from the Philadelphia Police Department, Department of Public Health and Office of Violence Prevention. Former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter also attended.

Attendee survey

We sent an email invitation to participate in this anonymous survey to everyone who registered. So far, we have received 66 responses and the reviews are good:

Did you learn something new and important that will inform your work?

Yes: 66 (100%)

Would you be likely to attend our events in the future?

Yes: 64 (97%)

Please rate your overall experience at the summit on a scale of 1-10:

Average response: 9.2

Please rate the overall quality of information delivered during the summit:

Average response: 8.9

Attendee comments

“The level of presentation and credentials of the speakers made this a credible, very high quality event. I am thinking about the education I received, and how to speak to others about gun violence prevention in a more effective, confident, and compassionate way.”

“Thank you so much for putting this event together. it is one of the most meaningful events I have been to in a long time (and I go to a LOT of conferences) and was so thoughtfully organized.”

“It’s rare that you see multiple Black women on multiple panels. The world needs more of that. We exist!”

“I enjoyed the summit tremendously. It helped to open my eyes to the care and compassion journalists use when covering violence and other negative stories. I learned a lot. Thanks.”

“It was great. I loved that questions were submitted on index cards and managed by the moderators. The time was wisely used, as a result of that.”

“Thank you! This was so necessary and important. Really, really happy to have attended.”

“This was a really cool event, and I’m glad I got to attend. In fact, I wonder if it was TOO efficient? I could see this easily become longer than one day.”

We didn’t specifically ask about the venue and catering but respondents let us know they were pleased:

“Thank you for providing a wonderful breakfast and lunch. As much as that might not seem like a big deal, it really does set the tone and make a difference.”

“It was a great summit overall. Regarding the amenity and facility aspects: the breaks we’re about the right length, breakfast, snacks and lunch were all excellent, and the staff was very courteous and helpful.”

“I thought the structure and logistical aspects of the conference were excellent. Having the tables in front of us was especially helpful.”

“The venue was incredible, loved the WHYY facility. Very impressed by the catering.”

“I thought the WHYY facility was excellent for the event.

Digital engagement

The event produced 898 original tweets throughout the day using our hashtag: #BGVR2019

Our web site traffic more than doubled following the event.

Early outcomes

Resources for those impacted by gun violence:

One panel included members of Mothers in Charge, a Philadelphia-based organization made up mostly of women bereaved by gun violence. They talked about how difficult it had been to find resources after losing their loved ones and local media organizations responded.

The staff at Billy Penn compiled a list of resources and both they and parent organization WHYY now include them with reports on gun violence.

Local media collaborative Resolve Philadelphia developed and shared an interactive version of the list, including a form to submit additional resources:

The resource list is also now linked within gun violence reports from NBC10 Philadelphia:

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner were among many who took notice.

Here’s a detailed summary of the events that led to the new service, by IBGVR director and RJI fellow Jim MacMillan:

This recap was also redistributed in journalism newsletters including those from RJI, API, ONA, INN, America’s Newspapers and the Democracy Fund.

The Philadelphia Shooting Victims Dashboard

User feedback following the summit has led to several updates to the Philadelphia Shooting Victims Dashboard, which was introduced during the event. CBS3 Philadelphia cited the resource in a recent report:

Visit live: The Philadelphia Shooting Victims Dashboard

What’s next?

In 2020, we will be working to:

  • Introduce a preliminary set of best practices for journalists covering gun violence, based on what we have learned so far, along with related resources.
  • Conduct a six-month survey of attendees to better assess the impact of the Better Gun Violence Reporting Summit.
  • Begin the work of transforming the Initiative into an enduring National Center for Gun Violence Reporting, through strategic planning, rebranding and development.


  • Keep up with our latest developments at:
  • Check the new footer below to connect on social media.

Our first accolades

As the summit concluded, IBGVR founder Jim MacMillan was presented with this challenge coin from members of Action Tank, the volunteer community of socially-responsible US military veterans who provided staffing for our event. We are grateful for this honor and would like to dedicate it to everyone working to advance better gun violence reporting.

Jim MacMillan was also honored with a 2019 DIY Philadelphia News Award at the Pen & Pencil Club, which this year granted members “the power to create your own award categories and bestow them on deserving folks.”

Technically Media founder and CEO Christopher Wink credited Jim for leveraging his decades of experience to start a new movement and presented this sparkly sneaker ornament as a keepsake. The Pen & Pencil Club is one of the oldest surviving press clubs in the country, founded in 1892. Thank you Chris!

What if changing the way journalists report on gun violence could prevent shootings and save lives?

The Initiative for Better Gun Violence Reporting has been created to inform a new set of best practices for journalists reporting on gun violence and to explore the hypothesis that changing the way this issue is covered could prevent shooting incidents and save lives.

And we have good reason to believe this work will make a difference.

Here’s what you can do:

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IBGVR: Our first year, June, 2020

What if changing the way journalists report on gun violence could prevent shootings and save lives?

The Initiative for Better Gun Violence Reporting has been created to inform a set of best practices specifically intended for journalists reporting on gun violence and to explore the hypothesis that changing the way this issue is presented can actually reduce violence. Our network of collaborating experts has given us every reason to believe this work will make a difference.


To inform this process, we organized the inaugural the inaugural Better Gun Violence Reporting Summit at WHYY in Philadelphia in November, 2019. Nearly 250 people attended from across the nation. Resources:

Complete session audioInteractive agendaDetailed reporting notes
Multimedia recapMedia coverageExpert directory

Participating experts included journalists who cover gun violence locally and nationally, community representatives with deep firsthand experience, frontline clinicians and researchers from fields including communications, criminology, epidemiology and public health.

The Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and ResearchThe Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri
The Coalition of Trauma Centers for Firearm Injury PreventionThe Lenfest Institute for Journalism
The Media School at Indiana UniversityWHYY
The TraceThe Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists
Guns and AmericaDart Center for Journalism and Trauma
WHYY NewsAction Tank US

Community Conversations

In preparation for the Summitwe invited 15 Philadelphia journalists who play some role covering gun violence to spend a day with 30 residents from deeply impacted communities. We partnered with nonprofits Mothers in Charge, the Coalition of Trauma Centers for Firearm Injury Prevention and Resolve Philadelphia. Support was provided by the City of Philadelphia Office of Violence Prevention.

Previous presentations
NORC / Arnold VenturesKlein News Innovation CampGermantown Info Hub
Projects in progress
Best practices guideResource info sharingPhiladelphia data dashboard
Emerging projects
New centerPartnering on podcastNewsroom training


Following the release of our best practices guide, we will turn to implementation, assessment and refinement. At the same time, we are focused on development, branding and strategy to transform our Initiative into an enduring Center for Gun Violence Reporting. Ultimately, we intend to facilitate and support enhanced reporting on the story of gun violence in America and the path to prevention.


During our first year of operations, The Initiative for Better Gun Violence Reporting modestly supported a diverse group of 82 conference presenters, event staffers and community members.

Combined, these groups comprised 76 percent people of color and 51 percent women. Diversity of age, education, income and identity were not measured at these events but were often stated by participants.

Summit participants included local and national journalists who report on gun violence; community representatives with prolonged lived experience and clinicians and researchers specializing in communications, criminology, epidemiology and public health.

Attendees included public officials and policymakers, activists and organizers, first responders, medical students, high school journalists and a former mayor of Philadelphia, as well as additional impacted residents from Philadelphia neighborhoods.

IBGVR also provided dozens of free conference tickets to organizations and individuals who indicated that cost would be an impediment to attending.


Founder and director Jim MacMillan is a fellow with the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri, a journalism educator and a Pulitzer Prize-winning former photojournalist. This project is co-managed with fiscal sponsorship by CultureTrust Greater Philadelphia and is a member of CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia.

Here’s what you can do

Please take a look aroundsubscribe to our newsletter and let us know what you think. Use:

The Initiative for Better Gun Violence Reporting

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.

Subscribe to the IBGVR newsletter for updates consider, please consider making a contribution to advance this work and stay connected with us online at:

Thank you!

The Philadelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting