Dr. Jessica Beard: Changing the narrative on gun violence reporting in Philadelphia
5:39PM Oct 27, 2022
I'm a president of the hcj board. And I'm here to just introduce our keynote speaker. I have to say hcj events, we often have people with medical expertise. And we often have people with public health expertise. But I don't think it's that often that we have somebody who has both those things in great depth and also knows a lot about what we do, and and has studied and thought a lot about journalism. So I'm really pleased and honored to introduce Dr. Jessica beard Dr. Beard is a trauma surgeon at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia. She's a public safety researcher at the Louis cap School of Medicine at Temple and she was last year she was named a fellow of this stone lean foundation and director of research for the Philadelphia Center for gun violence reporting. Reporting. That's us. So she she has a few words to say to us about that. Thank you so much, Dr. B.
All right. Can you hear me alright, so good afternoon, everyone. Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak with you. I've really been enjoying the conference so far and the incredible diversity of perspectives here today. And I'm hopeful that multidisciplinary conversations like we're having here and in other settings about violence prevention will help us come together around effective Public Health Solutions. Today I'd like to share with you the work I've been doing on narrative change around gun violence reporting in Philadelphia. I'll begin this talk with the introduction about who I am and how I got interested in the topic. I'll give you some context, epidemiologic context, around gun violence in Philadelphia. And then I'll describe our work and research on gun violence in the media and at the Philadelphia Center for gun violence reporting. I'd be happy to answer any questions you have during the talk or after and I welcome feedback that you have on our work. So I'm a trauma surgeon, like Dr. Rogers, and in Philadelphia, that means I'm an expert on what bullets do to bodies. Sometimes bullets tear through organs and cause damage that I can fix and sometimes it's irreparable every night when I'm on call at Temple which is a level one trauma center in North Philadelphia that's located in the epicenter of Philadelphia's firearm violence epidemic. I take care of a patient who has been shot every single night. Many nights I have 2345 even more patients all relying on me and my team for life saving care. When you think about it, It's sickening that my profession even has to exist that I and my colleagues have to respond day in and day out to an entirely preventable disease. A disease that barely exists in other countries. A disease that plagues people already made made most vulnerable by structural inequity is a disease that causes physical and emotional scars, for injured people, their families and their communities that are lifelong, and that are carried across generations. And though I am trauma providers like me witnessed the atrocities of gun violence every single day and every single night in the cities across this country. We understand its intimacies who it affects what it looks like on a human and anatomic and a molecular level you will rarely hear our stories told. My story includes the heartbreak of telling a 16 year old boy he will never walk again. The joy of knowing that I've saved a man's life, giving him a chance to see his wife and children and the anguish over being unable to protect young doctors in training from the horrors of daily gun deaths. The warmth of a thankful hug for my patients mom, UPS downs highs, lows, stress, exhaustion, elation, and despair. I often start start talks like this one with a photograph of the trauma bay at temple after an emergency procedure called an IDI thoracotomy. The photo that I use was taken by a temple medical student on his trauma rotation back in 2019. And it accompanied a piece he wrote for The New York Times that was entitled I remember the first time I saw a teenager die. The conference organizers suggested that I not include this image. This is a lunch talk. But even though it's not here, it's still part of my story. My story includes countless blood drenched scenes in the trauma bay, the operating room and the ICU. At work, I wear plastic shoes so that I can wipe them down when they get bloody with the blood. of people who are dying from gun violence. I wear scrubs so if my patient's blood gets on me, I can change them quickly. One night on call and fall of 2020 I change my blood and scrubs five times. My story includes hours, days, years in the operating room controlling injuries in the ICU navigating critical illness on the hospital floor supporting recovery in the clinic, addressing disability and in the community working on healing and prevention. On this slide, you can see me operating with one of our chief residents at Temple to take down a colostomy of a firearm injured person months after his injury, a final step in his physical journey to recovery. And on the right you can see me with Walter Willis, a gunshot wound survivor who had been caring for for over three years this photo was actually taken at an event that we had about better gun violence reporting about a month ago. And now after dozens of operations, he's strong enough to work as a cook, which was always his dream. The experiences of trauma surgery are so hard they're so human, and they're so rewarding and they're so detecting when I first moved to Philadelphia from San Francisco seven years ago, I was shocked by the normalization of caring for high volumes of firearm injured people that I saw at Penn where I did my fellowship and at Temple.
In trauma surgery we train our medical students to put paper clips on gunshot wounds. We click quickly study trajectories we perfect our operative skills, and we even built systems to respond to gun violence. When a mass shooting comes in, like it did last weekend at Temple we're ready. And even if it doesn't make the news, even if it's not a mass shooting according to Mother Jones, it's a mass shooting to us, our patients and our community. And my earlier days as a trauma surgeon after a terrible night on call, I would check the news looking for answers and instead of finding them I found news reports that looked like this sorry, not working okay, so you didn't hear the audio, but I'm sure you know it. It's the same script, right? It's an episodic crime report. It's another shooting in Kensington, and you didn't hear but it ends with police say no word on a motive and no arrests were hopeless. There's no solutions. This is inevitable. This disconnect between the realities of gun violence. My perspective, my patients perspectives and our media narrative is what first motivated me to begin research and advocacy on reporting on firearm violence and continues to motivate me in this work every day. Somehow we need to work to help the public understand the realities of gun violence to really understand them, including their root causes and evidence based solutions and have empathy for the victims. If reporting could do this could be empathetic and ethical. I truly think it would save lives. Although firearm violence is my everyday as a trauma surgeon research on prior violence has really been essentially taboo until recently. It's been limited by data sources, as you heard and it remains very limited by data sources by lack of funding, and frankly, by political censorship, but more and more our surgical medical and public health communities are beginning to understand firearm violence as a public health threat that it is. In 2016. I began my scholarly work in firearm injury by tracking its epidemiology, which as you heard is the first step in a public health approach to disease. And in that work, I work I look to analyze disease trends. And identify available data sources for monitoring firearm violence in Philadelphia, which by the way, they're very limited and remain so. This graph is from one of the first studies that I did that looked at the incidence of interpersonal shootings over time in Philadelphia, and it compared data from our statewide trauma registry with Philadelphia police data on shooting victims. And as you can see, the incidence of interpersonal firearm injury was actually steadily declining between 2005 and 2015 and Philadelphia, according to the two data sources, and this early study, be it small and limited actually helped us to identify that the Philadelphia police data is currently our most complete epidemiologic data source. It contains nearly double the firearm injured people compared to hospital data, largely because hospital data is not attempting to be an epidemiologic data source for shootings. And though both showed similar trends and incidents you can see their seasonal variations and the incidence of fire and violence which peaks in the summer months. So remember that because I'm going to show you what reporting on fire and violence looks like in Philadelphia. And knowing this has helped us identify the best models to use in data analysis. And I just want to say that there was no research like this on fireman injury epidemiology in that year in that time, and people are certainly more interested in this but without data that we can track in real time. Right. The CDC report on shootings came out two years later. We aren't going to know what's working and we aren't going to be able to track this and that's what a public health approach to firearm violence means it means that we have data that we can track in real time.
Since 2016, the incidence of firearm violence had been relatively stable in Philadelphia, then in early 2020, at the beginning of the COVID 19 pandemic as the numbers of patients seeking care for other medical and surgical problems declined due to pandemic restrictions. We noticed at Temple that the rate of firearm injury was increasing. The graph on this slide is from a paper published by our research team very early on in the pandemic that illustrates the magnitude of the increase in fire and violence following the enactment of Philadelphia's first COVID containment policy in March of 2020. Since that times, shootings have doubled in our city and this increase has been sustained to this day. Our research also indicates that the spike in firearm violence is increasingly impacting women and children. Especially black women and children. And that the rate of mass shootings as a proportion of all shootings has also increased significantly during the pandemic. These epidemiologic shifts suggest an overall intensification of firearm violence in in the city of Philadelphia, which again is impacting people already made most vulnerable by existing structural inequities. And just a little caveat on this research, it is unfunded, it is you using publicly available data, and it is done from my perspective to describe what we're seeing every day in the trauma veza temple and in Philadelphia. And 2021 There were 561 homicides in Philadelphia, the vast majority committed with a firearm making this past year the deadliest year ever in modern history in Philadelphia. We heard that about other cities as well as the state of Missouri 2022 is no different while a coordinated response to fire and violence has always been incredibly important. new and innovative strategies to understand and address the epidemic of fire and violence are needed now more than ever to save lives and prevent life altering disability from this threat to public health. The root causes of firearm violence we've heard about a little bit but they're complex and they must be understood where to meaningfully prevent it. Our research indicates that the risk for firearm violence in Philadelphia and this is likely true in other places, is placed based in it occurs in geographic hotspots. The location of these hotspots is inextricably linked to poverty, environmental factors, and historic and structural racism. For example, shootings are eight times more likely to current to occur in areas of the city which were deemed undesirable for mortgage lending in the 1930s a racist practice called redlining which I'm sure we're all familiar with and you can see depicted on the map in this slide. During COVID, we believe that largely unmitigated containment policies worsened structural inequities, and they disproportionately impacted people in our city, already extreme disadvantage, and they contributed to a situation where firearm violence increased in volume and intensity and impacted more black women and children. Understand that this connection is key because it informs structural solutions for firearm violence that address its root causes, including investment in employment, public education and social services along with improvements in the built environment. increased access to safe green spaces and programs that interrupt the cycle of violence. broad public support is needed to ensure widespread and sustained adoption of effective programs and policies that address these root causes of firearm violence. And the news media have an important role to play in understanding firearm violence at every level from educating the public to holding policymakers accountable. We know that media reports can influence public opinion and actions through framing and agenda setting, and they can help the public understand complex social problems. However, if you watch the local TV news in Philadelphia and probably Chicago and probably every city in this country tonight, you'd see a 32nd clip like the one I tried to show you at the beginning of this talk. communications research has found that reports like this, which media scholars call episodic reports, reports that are focused on a single shooting event when it comes to fire and violence. They can lead audiences to blame victims and communities and they can make people fearful. And while there are many perspectives on gun violence, including those of the victim community, the public health professional, someone like me on the treating health care team, we most often hear the voices of law enforcement and media reports on firearm violence, only including the perspectives of law enforcement can lead audiences to attribute unfounded efficacy to police responses to firearm violence. In this way, episodic narratives that frame firearm violence as a crime issue can undermine public health approaches to firearm violence, and in turn public support for public health solutions. So what if media reports could be part of the solution? What if media reports could actually prevent firearm violence or at least not makes things worse?
What if the epidemiology of firearm violence was tracked, presented and explored the way that we saw COVID-19 cases reported through a public health plans with public health tools, not just what the police are interested in? What if media reports included community voices and the perspective of health care workers who respond in cities across the country to the firearm violence epidemic? What if media reports explored the root causes of firearm violence by contextualizing each event within the structures that were antecedent to it? What if we learned about solutions when we heard about the most recent shooting in our city? Or what if we were offered resources? At the conclusion of each story like we get when we read or watch a story about suicide? What if each of the stories was centered on the principles of being trauma informed, so we don't have to relive our experiences with the trauma of firearm violence every time we turn on the news. These ideas formed the theoretical basis for a multi dimensional research and media advocacy work at the Philadelphia Center for gun violence reporting aimed at changing the narrative on gun violence reporting in Philadelphia. The Center was founded by Jim McMillan, former photo journalist at the Philadelphia Daily News, who covered conflict in Philadelphia and Iraq for many years and it supports research community journalism and journalists education aimed at advancing the most empathetic, ethical and impactful reporting on gun violence. I've been the director of research at the Center for about a year and a half and had been supported in that work by Philadelphia area foundation called the stone the foundation. As of now, the research portfolio of PCG VR consists of three active projects and various stages of completion along with multiple other companion investigations. The studies include an investigation of the perspectives of firearm injured people on news media reporting on their own injuries, a content analysis of local TV news reports on parent violence and an interview study with journalists who report on gun violence. So next I'll give you some more in depth information about these research studies, including outcomes where we have them so the aim of our first study was to explore how firearm injured people understand the meaning and impact of news media reporting about their own injury, and about firearm violence in their communities. And this study actually came out of multiple personal experiences as a trauma surgeon observing patients discuss their feelings about making the news and hearing the concerns of family members regarding news content and accuracy of reports about the shootings of their loved ones. And one particularly challenging case I remember mother calling into the ICU distraught when she heard her son had died from his injuries on the news, and this information was incorrect. He was alive, and this inaccurate report caused compounded trauma for her in the aftermath of her son's shooting. When we went to the literature, we found that although the harms of episodic crime reports on violence are relatively well documented, the impact of this style report of reporting on firearm injured people had never been explored, or at least not published. So for this study, we designed a semi structured interview guide, and then interviewed 26 firearm injury injury survivors in the temple trauma clinic within two months of their injury. We completed our data collection last year in October, and we've also completed the analysis of this data. And what we found is that most participants who made the news and that was a little over half of the participants and that goes with our other research. Only about half of shootings make the news and Philadelphia in two other cities. They felt negative or conflicted about the reporting on their injuries. Participants who did not make the news generally felt relieved and they actually didn't even expect to be on the news. One of our most notable findings was that no participant was interviewed by a journalist about their injury. Our analysis identified several themes which highlighted multiple perceived harms associated with media reports. They included feelings of dehumanization that participants connected with episodic style reports. Reliving of trauma, especially when graphic images or videos were included in reports, distress when there was an accurate information presented, and threats to personal safety when certain details about the shooting were mentioned, like the treating hospital or the patient's condition. Some participants also described harms to reputation and stigma that are associated with the publicity of their shooting, and negative impacts on public perceptions of safety and community largely due to the style and the content of the media reports. like to share with you some quotations from study participants to really emphasize the harms they perceived and reporting on their own injuries and about firearm violence in their communities. They didn't ask me any questions. There was no calls made to me or talk to me personally. They didn't tell the story from my perspective. It was like she was shot and that's it. I would prefer if they asked me specific feelings about me if they actually interviewed me, instead of just writing it like I'm a nobody. These words describe how it feels to be the subject of an episodic crime report, where the victim herself was not a participant in the narrative. This reporting made her feel like she was a nobody like she was shot and that's it.
You play back the incident. But then when you're looking at the news reports, sometimes it will make you frustrated because because the news don't always have the right information. These words exemplify how distressing and accurate information can be to trauma survivors, something that's known in the trauma journalism field. In this case, the participant said that the news got his condition and the number of gunshot wounds incorrect, which were small, but it was enough to frustrate him compound his trauma, even make him feel like he was reliving the incident and his family be very worried that he was going to die. It's like the first thing people think when you get shot is that you did something that people don't even understand. I literally was going to see my daughter and I was going to the dentist instead of saying man shot in North Philly save innocent man shot in North Philly because I don't like people just looking at me or looking at my situation and painting a picture. In Philadelphia and in cities across the country. There's an incredible stigma associated with being shot. This quotation explains how that stigma is perpetuated. By episodic reports that do not include exculpatory language or the victim's perspective. The participant connects episodic reports directly with the stigma. And he actually went on to explain that even when these reports are anonymous, people know who you are, and they assume things about you. We heard stories of patients, family members, calling them and asking them what they've been up to because they saw reports about them on the news getting shot. He also said that the narrative around the shooting made it harder for his mom to deal with his injury seeing him seeing him described in such a dehumanizing way you report the gun violence but why not do a follow up report for the victims their survivors, the families that had to bury these people? The whole process? Just don't do a guy got shot over there. A guy got shot over here. You're making people more fearful, you're more fearful, you're going to arm yourself more. This is an incredibly powerful observation about the impact of episodic reporting and how it can make people more fearful and maybe even perpetuate the cycle of violence. The ask to journalists to do follow up stories is one we hear over and over again, and it highlights the need to step outside the breaking news framework of covering gun violence. Based on this insight and others we're actively exploring next steps to measure harm and test for associations between harmful reporting and the incidence of violence at an ecological level. Our second research study is an ongoing content analysis of local TV news in Philadelphia, back in the 1990s, and again in 2018. The Berkeley Media Studies Group are really the thought leaders in this field examined content from print and TV news in California to understand how violence was being portrayed. They found that in the past, and now most stories on firearm violence are framed through an episodic crime lens. We wanted to see if this is true in Philadelphia as well. So for this study, we're aiming to understand how firearm violence is framed on local TV news in Philadelphia and specifically, how often it is presented through the lens of public health. We've searched and downloaded TV news clips about gun violence from a service called TBI is from all four of our local English stations Fox, ABC, CBS and NBC. At three times 6am 6pm and 11pm. We've completed a year's worth of data collection, and we built a codebook that contains information about episodic versus thematic framing who the narrator is whether harmful content is identified by our patients is included what visual imagery is present and if a public health perspective is included, we've collected nearly 7500 clips and we're actively coding our data. And I just want you to note, one thing that I find really interesting is that this these numbers of these shootings don't follow the epidemiologic trends of Philadelphia. Right. So in the summer, there's less reporting on firearm violence that's just one kind of small observation of how taken in total, media reports aren't accurately presenting what firearm violence looks like to the public. So we have some preliminary results from this we've coded about 5% of the clips that we plan to code 90% are episodic. Lease only if two or so present a public health perspective with solutions, and the vast majority have police imagery. So just as we suspect episodic crime narratives we hope that this project helps provide a basis for understanding our current TV narrative, and provides opportunities for further experiments with all the clips we've collected. In the next few months, we're planning to conduct an interview study with our local journalists to understand their perspectives on gun violence reporting, including limitations and goals for changing and improving reporting practices. And this, of course, will present another very important perspective that will bring us closer to understanding how to achieve that goal of the most ethical, empathetic and impactful firearm violence reporting in Philadelphia.
The more scholarship and investigations in the space we've done, the more we realize that there's a lot we don't know from our work. Questions about connections between reporting itself and the incidence of gun violence are unanswered and they need urgent attention. We're also interested in operationalizing metrics for harmful reporting over space and time and describing and testing public health frames to understand what content will be most effective and helping audiences to understand gun violence as a public health problem. The ultimate goal is to build a research portfolio that identifies evidence based recommendations for reporting on community gun violence similar to the work that has been done for reporting on suicide even when it comes to suicide reporting, as we heard before, about implementation, there's still need for effective implementation of guidelines, which is something we know will be relevant in our work as well. Because the focus of this conference is public health reporting on gun violence. I'd like to spend a little time discussing that including some of its nuances. So from an evidence based perspective, we know that episodic crime reporting is harmful. And our research has deepened understanding of these harms. But the truth is that we don't really know what the most effective and feasible alternative is. Laurie Dorfman and the Berkeley Media Studies Group described what a public health approach to violence reporting might look like back in 2001. stories that take this approach would include information about epidemiologic context for violence, individual and community level consequences, risk factors for violence and violence prevention methods. So that's what the Berkeley Media Studies Group has to say. Similar similarly, models like solutions based journalism, which we heard about earlier today, apply the core elements of a public health approach to stories on social problems, challenging journalists to focus on the response to the problem and evaluate again, importantly evidence for the solutions impact but research from Ronita Coleman and Esther Sorensen has found that the Matic stories and stories that take Dorfman's public health approach don't always do what they intend to do, and, frankly, audiences they're boring. They cite limitations to implementing this approach, including audience interest, time and space. Of course, as we've heard, of newsroom structures, which allow the crime be to persist, and the need for public education and demand for public health stories the need to get those clicks and make these stories appealing to the public. On an anecdotal level, we've observed major concerns by community members that numbers that we might think are providing epidemiologic context can feel very dehumanizing. We've heard that the term public health itself is triggering, as people, at least in Philadelphia may associate it with failed prevention programs and exploitative research that does not address the root causes of violence. This doesn't mean that helping audience to audiences to understand firearm violence is is as a health and public health problem won't have the impact we're hoping for. It's just that we don't know the best way to effectively do this. We haven't really completely figured that out. And so this is an active area of interest for us at the center. We're explore as we explore the development of metaphors that will resonate with audiences of different backgrounds.
Most recently, the Philadelphia Center for gun violence reporting brought together 70 members of our community into conversation and designing for solutions at the better gun violence Reporting Workshop in Philadelphia. This was a day long event that included journalists from TV, print and radio community journalists, storytellers, researchers, advocates and survivors. It began with talks about trauma journalism, about love and empathy stories from survivors and a powerful keynote addressing the history of crime journalism and its current limitations. Then we broke into groups we brainstormed and prototype solutions. This portion of the day was facilitated by Human Centered Design Lab from San Francisco called the better lab. And the better lab is run by a trauma surgeon who herself has personal experience with firearm violence. One of the most amazing moments of my journey in this work was when I realized in my small group that that day which was about a month ago, I was sitting with my patients mother, a TV news producer, and a radio journalist imagining how to make episodic reporting better and more humanizing. Here on this slide, you can see a few ideas that came out of this experience, including training and trauma informed reporting, and a hub for journalists and community to come together for community centered reporting on firearm violence. This event was very recent. So we're planning our next steps actively. Finally, I'd like to describe what I think is an incredibly innovative and exciting program that we have at the Philadelphia Center for gun violence reporting which is the purple messengers reporting project. This program prepares people with lived experience of firearm violence with professional journalists to tell their stories of gun violence. The photo on the slide and it's also available just at the top of our website if you want to listen. Here's from a documentary produced by preventive media. My patient Walter and his mom to Sean strether and PCG VR and it's called stronger every day healing from gun violence. I participated in the creation of this documentary, and it honestly may be the thing I'm most proud of in all my career, right, patching up bullet holes and fixing injuries from firearms is very important. But for Walter, I had nothing left to give him to help him recover from his trauma other than to help him tell his story. And before this experience, he couldn't even talk he didn't talk. He'd spent years in the hospital. And now through telling his story in his own way with the help of his mom, he's been able to heal and recover, and the storytelling was a huge part of this journey. I'd like to acknowledge Jim McMillan from the Philadelphia Center for gun violence reporting, our research team, which is really a very multidisciplinary effort and includes journalism scholars like Jennifer Middlebury she's from Lehigh. Sarah Jacoby, who's a nursing professor from Penn, a temple resident, and temple medical students who are there and of course, the stony foundation. Thanks for listening
I have a couple of questions and then I'm gonna come around the microphone, Danny, you folks that have and one thing I'm wondering about is when you're talking about episodes, episodic reporting, I mean, this is you call it episodic. We call it news. You know, something happens. There's an impulse or or a need to cover it. Are you saying that these things shouldn't be covered or is there a way when you're dealing with breaking news? Is there a way to do it in a way that you would not consider harmful
if that's what you call it news, okay. That's that's that I mean, that's, that's a really important perspective. So I guess I would say, Why is every shooting Why does Why does fire and violence need to be covered as breaking news, right? We know that specifically when it comes to violence we've known since the 90s that episodic crime stories about violence are harmful. They harm our society. They harm the people about whom they're about. And they don't contribute to solutions. So I guess I would say, first is addressing the crime part, right. Why are law enforcement the only people whose perspectives we're presenting we heard earlier today that journalists aren't advocates, but when you're only presenting the the perspective of law enforcement, you're a police advocate. If you want to be a person advocate, you present the perspectives of victims and of communities that are being affected people like me, obviously, you saw my trauma, right? So can we ever get away from an episodic story, a story that's only about a shooting event when it comes to firearm violence? Maybe not right? Maybe that's just a pipe dream. But we certainly should be able to get away from a single source law enforcement, episodic story. I'll give you an example. So in the 7000 clips that we have, we have multiple clips of a white man who was shot in an up and coming neighborhood in Philadelphia, who was a temple graduate, and even at the scene, even at even at the one minute episodic report. In those reports, they mentioned that he was innocent twice, they characterize him as a dog walker, you know, they present stories of empathy about him, so it is possible. And maybe a goal would be to be empathetic when you're telling episodic reports
do you have any thoughts about print media? Have you looked at print that all this was mostly about TV but is print doing any better just as bad or?
Yeah, so this study from the Berkeley Media Studies Group, which was California wide about shootings, looked at print journalism, and still found that most reports are episodic crime stories. Do I think that again, I'm not a journalist. I'm a trauma surgeon. But obviously, you know, the, the medium of print offers more opportunities to tell deeper stories and the medium of TV is just more challenging. But I think that in both places, more and better can be done with actually evidence about what's working.
Great talk thank you for what you do. It's good having dinner with you yesterday. I'm turning gross income for non violence Chicago practitioner. Dr. Rogers is the vice chair of the board. So I work for him. But my question is, I often feel these two parallel dialogues right so that you get I'll simplify Fox News. Well, and there is the added wealth, right? And I'm oversimplifying, but in those shootings, it's great. And we need to hear the perspective of the victims and that's an improvement. But we don't confront and I don't know what blocks the media from confronting how does the White well then I'll simplify here, interpret those things, right. To start challenging that we did that in the south in the 60s, we went and challenge white society. How did they think and we took it to them that was the reason King and others went there. We're not doing that. I wonder if you will, similar because we can be building our own bubble. These victims, et cetera, and root causes and solution, but officers go home firefighters go home and they see behaviors that to them are just unexplainable, or blame the victim, and they have a will to vent it. And we're not confronting this. So we're staying as divided and I don't think we're reaching the world we really need to reach with as well, which has a lot of HOLD ON THE PERSON volunteer.
I mean, I don't have an answer. to that. Right. If I did, probably wouldn't be here. You know, one thing about public health is and we talked about this is that it's incremental. Right? It's actually okay to apply band aids to minimize harm and public health. You know, very rarely do you have a public health problem that occurs respond to with a vaccine, and gosh, even with COVID We couldn't even do that very well. And so when I think about, you know, my work as a trauma surgeon, which is literally witnessing structural violence every single day and everything that is wrong with our society, and what I can do about it, and what I can do about racism as me, this is a target, right? Episodic crime stories that are reaffirming stereotypes about people and places where violence happens that we know we actually know from evidence that is what happened happens when people watch these stories. That is a target that can work to dismantle structural challenges, right? Like one could even imagine that episodic crime story is functional in a way that's similar to redlining. They're telling audiences who live in the neighborhood but also audiences that don't, don't go here. Don't invest in this place. These people are bad. And when we talk to journalists, the journalists who are hurt doing these stories on TV news, right they're part of the system. It's not it's not any one individual, right? There's terrible things about the way medical care is delivered in this country. That doesn't mean I'm a bad person or I'm a bad doctor. And so part of it is about empowering people to realize how harmful these narratives are that are involved in them. And then also you know, working from the top to that's something that we haven't done as much but working with decision makers kind of at the top. So I don't know if that answers your question. I think that it's complex, but I do think that this is a piece of what we're talking about.
Thank you so much for your talk. I'm getting a deal with stat. I want to follow up on the point you made you told that and I started the one report of a white and how they were empathetically as your as your research, gone further to to look at to racial difference differences in race and neighborhood to people live in two, and how that reporting about that difference?
Yeah, it's a great question. It is the next direction of this research with this data. We know that, you know, black people report as perpetrators of crime right? We know that from communications research. But our plan with this data is to define achieve consensus around what's harmful content right. We know what our patients think in a qualitative way. And then actually start measuring for harmful content and look for disparities and try to, you know, approach this through a lens of disparity. It's interesting when we presented the qualitative research to our local TV, news journalists, they were like, man, that's only 26 people. So I think we do need even though it's, you know, it's was very rigorous. And it's qualitative research. And you would think that a journalist would understand qualitative research. We realized that we need a lot of different, you know, ways to describe this problem and to help people understand and what we also realize is that, you know, this whole conference is about reporting on gun violence as a public health problem, but we don't actually know how to do that effectively. So we also need to test alternatives. And that's what we hope to with with these because there are some good examples of public health reporting on TV. So we need to figure out what's going to resonate with audiences and then help journalists to see that they might get clicks when they do these great public health stories.
That bear great talk. And I want to say that I must be a great judge of talent because I tried to recruit you from a couple years ago on I reflect a little bit not as a trauma surgeon, but as a dad had over three African American sons and in addition to teaching my sons, if you get stopped by the police, you have to keep your hands on the steering wheel. Don't return anything, right. I reflect as we're talking that one of the root causes that we don't talk about enough, is exemplified and experienced when I took my dad 18 Now 23 year old sad to Portland because I have this thing when you turn 18 I take you on a trip, wherever you want to go and he picked Portland. What was happening in Portland, five years ago, January, there was this big woman smarttrade. So we're there. And he says, let's go this is my first time of advocacy. So we're joining all the pink bunny hats. And we're in the Kimpton hotel, in Portland. I'm in a suit because that's where I roll, my son 18 Six, five is not in a suit, but we're only two black men on the elevator and a white woman walks in, and she immediately clutches her purse. Now, what's fascinating about that, to me, is my six five son, I notice, makes himself smaller. And I said to him as we get off the elevator, why did you do that? I wanted to make her feel comfortable. What does that say when we were ready teaching our 18 year old black men, that they have to make themselves smaller, to be safe and to be perceived as safe. So I know that's a statement but that's really where we need to fix some of the media reporting stuff. Because it is pervasive. Questions
My question has to do with your research study and looking for metaphors that would help make narrative reporting about gun violence as a public health issue, resonate more, make it less boring and so on. And but one of the things I think we learn as journalists is we have really no control over how people absorb information. And I'm wondering if you're running into that, in your research, you know, where part of your talk talked about the areas of the unknown? Because the real thing with reporting is the alchemy between focus mostly on television, episodic reporting, I'm a print journalist, but there's an alchemy between the reader and what I write, and I've often been challenged on why did you say this? And I will say, let's read the story together. I never said it's not in here. But they have brought something to the reading in that moment. That leads them to have a certain reaction and draw a whole series of conclusions. And so I'm just wondering what you think you'll be able to, how much further will you be able to go in your research to actually figure out a means of having a societal impact? Well,
so I guess, kind of on an individual level, there's always going to be some subjectivity. In the way that people interpret reports, right. But I think that that's sort of the purpose of research. And, you know, specifically sort of a common methodology and communications research, which I'm sure you all are familiar with would be experiments, right? So you have a clip, that's an episodic crime story and you have a clip. That's a thematic public health frame, whatever we decide that is, and then you test reactions to that and you know, who's who people feel like are to blame when they see a story like that. And so of course, there may be individuals who are still going to blame the victim when they see you know, public health story. But I think by and large, we already know that thematic stories help people hold social structures accountable. And so I think building the narratives that are going to be effective with audiences, but then also figuring out how to incorporate them into newsrooms. Is the goal. And those two things go hand in hand. I guess I would say that, you know, of course, people bring their their viewpoints to reporting but we can also be scientific about it, right? We can know what's going to work for the majority of people and we can also not cause harm, right? If we know that an episodic if there stigma of being shot, and then you tell an episodic crime story where everyone's going to assume that that person was doing something or is culpable in their injury. We can just stop doing that because that's really harmful. And then we can test and see what alternatives exist, you know, based on having audiences view that. I don't know if that answered your question. But there's, I would imagine, one of the things that's so fascinating to me is a lot of what I do in my world is very evidence based, right? I mean, a lot of it isn't, but we do a lot of research. And the things that we try to do are for the benefit of people to have good outcomes, however you want to measure it and we can be cynical about it. But within law enforcement, and then also journalism. It's there's not a lot of measures of the impact that we're having. So I would push back and I would say, you do have control. We actually know that you have control about what public and policymakers think about social problems
actually, a lot so I guess I'm a little bit more hesitant to say that I can control the impact. Even if i i important, public health safety, trauma informed reporting all of this science. I still think there's a little bit of a mystery out there on how people receive information, how they process it. This particular moment in time when they're receiving information.
Yeah, I mean, I guess what's less of a mystery is that watching yourself get shot on a video is traumatizing that hearing yourself described as you know, riddled with bullets is one of our patients in our cities. That is is hurtful, you know, so meet Jim and I talked about this all the time. I mean, that's why we've chosen to focus on minimizing harms, you know, rather than necessarily saying exactly what the alternative is because we don't know what the alternative is. It's going to work in every context. But what we can try to do is measure harms and measure disparities and harmful reporting.
So our next 130 minutes for the three questions,
I guess. Hi, Sabrina rice, Kaiser Health News. I guess my question is if you've if your research has seen a difference in how journalists cover, say, the episodic incidents that you're just talking about, and the lack of empathy for the victim, versus the mass shooting, where you do get a quite a bit of that empathetic and it's all about the victim. So I'm wondering if your research looked at that and maybe there's lessons to be learned from how each are covered?
I think that's a I could I'll be quiet because I could say a lot about mass shootings right even how we define them as a little bit racist, right in terms of who the victims are that we tell stories about, but I think that that's an excellent point and one that I didn't really emphasize so when it comes to mass shootings and rapport and suicide and reporting on suicide, we actually have hundreds of papers, especially within suicide, hundreds of research studies that show what harmful reporting on suicide looks like. So those recommendations the who has recommendations for reporting on suicide, those recommendations are certainly a starting point when it comes to reporting on community gun violence. It's just there's literally no evidence out there to guide us yet.
Thank you, Dr. Baird. They're really moving very helpful.