Coverage of gun violence influences how people understand and respond to this public health issue. Close-ended coverage of individual shootings, for example, can retraumatize firearm injury survivors, making them feel exploited and dehumanized, says Jessica H. Beard, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.S., a public health researcher and a trauma surgeon at Temple University Hospital, one of the busiest trauma centers in the world.
Beard, director of research for the Philadelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting and a Stoneleigh Foundation Fellow, will talk about how journalists can improve their coverage of and help prevent gun violence on Thursday, Oct. 27 at Reporting on Violence as a Public Health Issue: An AHCJ Summit in Chicago. Registration for virtual attendance at the summit is still open.
“I know it’s not easy to be a journalist covering gun violence. We are at a critical time where ethical, empathetic, and impactful reporting on this epidemic could really transform the public narrative, empower communities and lead to support for effective solutions,” Beard told AHCJ. “Working together, we could make reporting better and prevent gun violence.”
During her session, “Changing the narrative on gun violence reporting in Philadelphia,” Beard will summarize the Philadelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting’s work and research on narrative change around gun violence in Philadelphia. Her main goal is to share the organization’s strategy for making gun violence reporting better through research, community journalism collaboration and education, she said.
“Dr. Beard brings the exceptional authority of a trauma surgeon, extensive expertise as a gun violence prevention researcher and exceptional integrity as a social justice advocate to her role leading our research collaborative,” said Jim MacMillan, director of the Philadelphia Center for Gun Violence Reporting and its parent organization, the Initiative for Better Gun Violence Reporting.
“Her talk will identify the harmful effects of episodic gun violence reporting and start down the path toward best reporting practices.”
Beard’s research examines firearm injury epidemiology, local news content on gun violence and the perspectives of firearm-injured people in media reports.
“I hope journalists will feel inspired to do similar work and build similar collaborations across disciplines in their respective settings,” she said.
Beard holds a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University, a medical degree from Yale University, and a master’s of public health from the University of California, Berkeley.
She is one of two featured speakers at the Fall Summit. Dr. Selwyn Rogers, a surgeon, public health expert and founding director of the University of Chicago Medicine Trauma Center, will kick off the Summit on Thursday morning with his perspective on why it’s so important to reframe the story on gun violence.