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Preventing Community Violence by Changing the Media’s Discourse

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We must change how we talk about community violence in order to ensure community safety. In conjunction with Prevention Institute, community leaders and violence prevention advocates in Northern California, PHI’s Berkeley Media Studies Group (BMSG) explored what it will take to change the discourse on violence, with a focus on the news media.

First, BMSG and partners worked with community violence prevention leaders to identify specific, solutions-oriented frames missing from the current discourse on violence. BMSG then conducted a news analysis of how those frames appeared in California papers from 2013-2015. Using this novel methodology, BMSG evaluated news from different sectors to identify opportunities for journalists to elevate community violence prevention. This research was then presented at convenings with community leaders to get their input and draft additional tools for action.

BMSG’s research uncovered trends in how community violence and safety are framed in California news—specifically, that a solutions-oriented frame is dwarfed by sensationalist coverage of individual crimes; that community safety news focuses on solutions, including preventive solutions; that police dominate the coverage but community residents are becoming more visible; and that an emerging frame in the coverage focuses on racism as a root cause of violence. These findings lay the groundwork for shifting the discourse around violence and elevating prevention. See the full research.

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