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America’s newsrooms are reckoning with their mass shooting coverage

At least 45 mass shootings have occurred in the United States over the past month, and America’s journalists are covering the stories as they unfold, both on the ground and from their computers.

There is a mass shooting — when four or more people (excluding the gunman) are shot and wounded or killed — nearly every day in America, and journalists are responsible for covering those shootings. But race is deeply embedded in how gun violence is covered by the media.

At least 100 people in the United States die per day as a result of gun violence, but so often, the shootings that get the most attention are those in white or suburban areas with a certain level of “surprise value,” Abené Clayton, the lead reporter for the Guns and Lies in America project at The Guardian, said on “Reliable Sources” Sunday. She added that those shootings garner a lot of attention because “so many Americans say to themselves, ‘I could have been here.'”

On the other hand, when a mass shooting happens in a city where gun violence is more common — such as Oakland, Philadelphia or Chicago — “people don’t see themselves in those places and there is a very racist idea that gun violence just happens there,” Clayton said. She added that there is a misconception that gun violence is a natural byproduct of living in those cities.

Kyle Pope, the editor and publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review, told CNN’s Chief Media Correspondent Brian Stelter that it’s important for the media to “focus on what happens between these big, high-profile events.”

Covering the moments “between” the big events includes focusing on the aftermath of mass shootings as well as police killings of Black men. CNN correspondents Miguel Marquez and Sara Sidner were in Minnesota last week, covering the fallout from a police officer killing Daunte Wright, just a few miles from where George Floyd was killed in May 2020.

“Gun violence is part of a vicious cycle of race and inequality in the US, reflecting existing social inequalities, and also making it even more challenging for young Black people, especially young black men, to escape poverty and violence,” a Brookings Institution report notes.

In preparation for the Derek Chauvin trial verdict, Minneapolis and other US cities are implementing increased security. “I am incredibly anxious and concerned about what’s going to happen not only in Minneapolis, but across the country this week or whenever that verdict comes down in the Derek Chauvin trial,” CNN’s senior national correspondent Miguel Marquez said.

And in 2021, the news coverage extends beyond major media websites, broadcasts and newspapers. With cell phone accessibility, “Everybody has their own little TV station, and they’re broadcasting all the time” Sidner said.

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