Last Sunday, the “NBC Nightly News” did something practically unheard of for a national evening newscast. It dedicated 14 minutes — about half the program — to one featured topic.
Led by Sunday anchor and reporter Kate Snow, the “NBC Nightly News” looked at an issue that has become one of America’s darkest troubles: gun violence.
“I’ve anchored ‘NBC Nightly News’ on Sundays for seven years,” Snow told me in an email. “Almost every Sunday morning, we hear about all of the shootings that have happened overnight in various cities. The reality is that we simply don’t have time in a regular broadcast to talk about every shooting or even list the numbers for each city.”
But Matt Frucci, executive producer of “Weekend Nightly News,” had an idea. What about focusing on one summer night across the country? So that’s what NBC News did.
Using vast resources and what Snow called “dozens and dozens of people,” NBC News spread out on a recent Saturday night to tackle, arguably, the most unsettling story in the U.S. at this moment.
Snow went to Chicago and followed Donovan Price, a pastor who spends his Saturday nights on the frontlines meeting with the loved ones of those impacted that night by gun violence. She also spoke with a mother who lost two sons to guns in a matter of months.
Gabe Gutierrez reported from the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore where two gunshot victims, including one who did not survive, were being treated. The doctors described working there as a “war zone.”
In Houston, Gadi Schwartz embedded with Houston Police overnight commander Larry Crowson as they worked the city dealing with shootings.
And in Philadelphia, Jesse Kirsch went on a ride-along with Philadelphia Police on a chaotic night that included finding a lost 2-year-old wandering the streets, a drug overdose and the search for a shooter who had killed a man earlier in the evening.
“What might surprise you is that in Chicago and Philadelphia, we were actually told that we had a ‘slow night’ relative to their usual pace,” Snow said. “That’s a slow night. … And the problem is so massive that we could’ve embedded in dozens of cities across the country and seen gun violence in every one of them that night. It is difficult not to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of it.”
That’s why Snow and NBC News felt the story was so important to tell.
“As a parent, I was struck by the impact that gun violence is having on children and young people,” Snow said. “Pastor Donovan spoke at length about a 5-month-old who was recently killed and whose family he has been helping. That story brought tears to my eyes. He introduced me to Diane Archer, whose 26-year-old son Brandon was shot and killed outside her home on the day before Mother’s Day. She had lost her younger son just five months earlier. As I said to Diane, I just simply couldn’t imagine what she is now living with.”
The key to this excellent and moving storytelling was detailing the individual stories and the impact that gun violence has on real people. As viewers, it’s easy to become numb to statistics and anonymous victims of mass shootings. But by introducing viewers to the individuals and faces and voices of people impacted by gun violence, this feature told a story that a set of numbers could never tell.
“I think that’s the value of what we were able to do,” Snow said. “We took the viewer along with us on the streets of Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Houston and they met all of the individuals and families we met. We presented it all chronologically, which I think gave the viewer the sense for how long the night is, how much pain there is, how people suffer. I’ve been asked what the common thread was to all of the locations, and I think it’s exhaustion. You see it in the face of Pastor Donovan Price, who I followed. You see it in the faces of the doctors and nurses at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center where Gabe Gutierrez was. You see it at the end of the shift with the narcotics officers Jesse Kirsch spent the night with. And you hear Gadi Schwartz get a call AFTER believing they were wrapped up for the night and he was walking into his hotel in Houston. There had been another shooting. Everyone is exhausted by this cycle of violence.”
There was an especially moving moment in the piece when Pastor Price started to break down when talking about the importance of love and Snow couldn’t help but comfort the pastor by putting her hand on his shoulder.
“We were outside the University of Chicago medical center where we had all just watched an extended family waiting for news of their loved one — a 31-year-old man,” Snow said. “When they found out he had died, we saw people collapse and hold each other. Pastor Donovan then gathered them all into a prayer circle and prayed with them. He was talking with me afterward about what he said to them, and he admitted that it is difficult for him, too. Every night he goes to crime scenes or hospitals and comforts families.”
He told Snow, “This one took a lot out. It was a lot of opening up your spirit. … When you open yourself up, there’s some stuff that’s going to get in that you don’t want.”
Snow said, “I could see that his eyes were getting red and tearing up. When he got emotional, I did what any human being would do and put a hand on his shoulder in comfort. I was thinking that he was being very vulnerable in that moment. I was also, personally, exhausted at that point. It was 3:30 a.m. and he had just heard about another shooting. But just after that moment you saw, he looked at us and said, ‘I have to go home.’ He couldn’t take any more that night.”
It was a gut-wrenching moment that, sadly, didn’t put an exclamation mark on the night. It was merely an ellipsis.
A valuable idea
Last weekend, a special Texas House committee released a 77-page report following its investigation into the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 children and two teachers.
But now the Austin American-Statesman has provided a real public service and republished the report online in Spanish. Statesman executive editor Manny Garcia wrote that most of the families in the Uvalde area are Latino and “many are more comfortable reading in Spanish.”
Garcia goes on to write, “A group of Spanish-language reporters and editors took special care to ensure the translation was culturally competent and sensitive to word usage by Mexican and Central American communities. A few words in the report do not readily translate to Spanish, however, such as ‘tomboy,’ which is a derogatory term in Spanish. We have kept those words in English in quotations.”
Garcia also said that the paper will publish hard copies of the report in Spanish and make them available free of charge.
Garcia added, “Transparency and rigorous journalism that challenges the process are the only path to meaningful change. The Uvalde families deserve honest answers and what will be done to prevent another May 24 tragedy after a gunman walked into the school and opened fire inside two classrooms. Law enforcement officers took 73 minutes before they entered the room. Police said they killed the gunman. The Uvalde families deserve to receive the report’s information in Spanish, too.”
A podcast worth a listen
Looking for a new podcast? Check out Katie Couric’s excellent — and very timely — six-part series called “Abortion: The Body Politic.” It’s a special series as a part of her “Next Question with Katie Couric” podcast. All six episodes are now out. The series looks at the history and future of abortion access in the U.S. and includes Couric’s reporting from an abortion clinic and interviewing activists and the last living Roe v. Wade prosecutor.
As The Daily Beast’s Kevin Fallon describes, “It’s a really comprehensive podcast, but it never loses the humanity in its breadth, especially because of the very personal, emotional stories that are peppered throughout of people talking about their experience with abortion, including several harrowing pre-Roe accounts.”
CNN announced several management moves on Wednesday, including naming Virginia Moseley as the network’s executive vice president of editorial. The New York Times’ Benjamin Mullin reports that Mosely will be
“responsible for the bulk of the network’s TV and digital newsgathering.” Moseley had been running CNN’s TV newsgathering.
That was just one of the announcements CEO Chris Licht made to staff on Wednesday. Mullin has the other details, including that some positions will remain in place — Michael Bass as executive vice president of programming; Amy Entelis as executive vice president of talent and content development; and Ken Jautz as executive vice president of news. Also, Johnita Due will be CNN’s executive vice president of integrity and inclusion, and Ramon Escobar, CNN’s senior vice president of talent recruitment and development, will be in charge of the network’s contributors. Mullin also notes that Licht’s choices are “mostly from the ranks of insiders who worked for his predecessor,” Jeff Zucker.
Meanwhile, Kristine Coratti Kelly is leaving The Washington Post to become CNN’s executive vice president and head of global communications. She has been the Post’s chief communications officer and general manager of Washington Post Live.
In a statement, Licht said, “Kris is one of the most dynamic, creative and respected executives in her field with an incredible track record of success. I am completely confident in her ability to support and advance CNN’s core values of trust, transparency and accountability in journalism.”
In a statement, Coratti Kelly said, “CNN is one of the most consequential and trusted news organizations in the world. I am thrilled to join the team and help deliver on its vision to grow CNN’s reach and reputation as the world’s leading source for news and information.”
Coratti Kelly will be based in New York and report directly to Licht.
Journalists at The Hill vote to form a union
For this item, I turn it over to my Poynter colleague Angela Fu.
Journalists at The Hill voted 45-18 in favor of unionization, according to a ballot count Wednesday. The Hill Guild will now be a unit of the Washington-Baltimore News Guild, which also represents staff at The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun and the Center for Public Integrity, among other newsrooms.
The Hill’s editorial staff went public with their union drive in May, when they announced that they were seeking pay transparency, affordable health care and a more diverse and inclusive workplace. Their parent company, Nexstar Media Group, declined to voluntarily recognize the union, forcing the workers to seek an election with the National Labor Relations Board.
The union — which includes reporters, designers, social media curators and copy editors — can now begin negotiations for a contract. Though this process can be contentious, a number of NewsGuild units have recently announced their own first contracts, including Wired Union, the Washington State NewsGuild and The State NewsGuild.
- Mediaite’s Kipp Jones reports that former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo will give his first TV interview since being fired last December. He will talk to NewsNation’s Dan Abrams in an interview that will air next Tuesday on “Dan Abrams Live,” which airs at 9 p.m. Eastern. A video teasing the interview says Cuomo will talk about what he’s been up to since the firing and will answer the “tough questions about his past.”
- For The New Republic, Alex Shephard with “Has Elon Musk Already Ruined Twitter?”
- The Associated Press’ David Bauder with “Soledad O’Brien show makes impression in off-hours time slot.”
- Jordan Peele’s new movie “Nope” is getting rave reviews. Here’s a good roundup of the reaction from Variety’s Zack Sharf and J. Kim Murphy: “‘Nope’ First Reactions Are a Resounding ‘Yep,’ Praising Jordan Peele’s ‘Most Ambitious Film.’”
- For The Wall Street Journal, Jessica Toonkel and Keach Hagey with “Facebook Shifts Resources From News to Focus on Creator Economy.”
- The New York Times’ Ashley Wong with “Tired of Waiting for Their Dream Workplace, These Writers Made Their Own.”
- Intriguing stuff here from Radar’s Ryan Naumann: “New CNN Boss In Secret Talks To Poach MSNBC Stars Joe Scarborough And Mika Brzezinski To Fix Network’s Struggling Morning Timeslot.”
- I mentioned earlier this week that the “Today” show has started a new digital cover series. It launched by featuring Issa Rae and here it is.
- The Star Tribune’s John Rash with “White House photographer witnessed, and captured, history.”
- The Atlantic’s Elaine Godfrey writes about the opossum in “America’s Most Misunderstood Marsupial.”
- The Washington Post’s Dan Morse and Ellie Silverman with “Brett Kavanaugh’s neighbors: For abortion rights but tired of protests.”
Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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