Statement of Purpose Media reporting can shape public understanding of health threats and potential solutions. In this study, we aimed to understand how recently firearm-injured patients perceive the meaning and impact of news media reporting about their own injuries and firearm violence in their communities.
Methods/Approach This study was conducted in Philadelphia, PA, a city currently experiencing epidemic levels of interpersonal firearm violence since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study site was the trauma clinic of the busiest Level I trauma center for firearm injuries in the city. We consecutively recruited a purposive sample of firearm-injured patients for semi-structured qualitative interviews within 2 months of their injury. Interview content was analyzed thematically.
Results 16 patients consented and participated in interviews between July and October 2021 (5 women, 11 men, age range: 20–60 years). Preliminary analysis of interview data has yielded three major themes. These include: (1) the meaning of being included in or excluded from the news, (2) emotional trauma caused by inaccuracies in coverage and lack of consent during news production, and (3) how news reporting perpetuates negative perceptions of safety and community.
Conclusion Patients’ perspectives on news reporting about firearm violence in Philadelphia highlight several potential harms associated with current newsgathering practices. News reports about patient injuries may reinforce fear and trauma, result in feelings of exploitation and injustice, and contain what patients perceive as inaccuracies or negatively skewed portrayals of their own injuries, community safety, and public health.
Significance Current conventions in news reporting on firearm violence may be an important but underappreciated influence on the experience of injured people. A trauma-informed approach to reporting that incorporates patient and public health perspectives could minimize secondary harms and improve public understanding of firearm violence.
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