VA Victim’s Friend Seeks A New Approach To Covering Gun Violence


With more than 30,000 gun deaths each year in the U.S., journalists need to ask themselves questions like, “What are the drivers of our narrative of gun violence? What incidents of gun violence should we use as the opportunity to have a substantive conversation about gun violence?” So writes reporter Chris Hurst of WDBJ7 in Roanoke, Va., whose girlfriend, reporter Alison Parker, was killed last year along with photographer Adam Ward by a gunman on live television. Writing for the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, Hurst says that “high-profile shootings are not the everyday reality of gun violence in America. As journalists, we simply aren't engaging with our audiences and our communities on this subject to the extent that we should, because we're not connecting with the people who are most often adversely affected by gun violence.”

Hurst says, “Meaningful journalism on gun violence shouldn't just look at the mass shootings or other high profile incidents, but also acknowledge and report on the populations most at risk to be killed with a gun— young black men in homicides and white men from suicide. Suicide-with-a-gun rates are steadily on the rise, and white men, particularly those over the age of 70, are most at risk.” Hurst says that at various times in his own newsroom, “Our news director has identified heroin and opiate abuse, diabetes, domestic violence and the Affordable Care Act as subjects worthy of a focused, on-going examination. It's time gun violence, and the people most at risk to be victims, are treated with a similar focus.”

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