This editor’s note was originally published on Dec. 31, 2022.
As 2022 sunsets, the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection logs a grim statistic — 516 homicides. Surpassing the 500 mark two years in a row is a devastating reality for a city that has been working feverishly to stop the killings. While the city’s homicide number is down 8% from 562 killings last year, shootings remain a seemingly unshakeable scourge.
WHYY News is committed to reporting on solutions to Philadelphia’s gun violence crisis and public safety. The news department, along with the Temple University Logan Center for Urban Investigative Reporting, created a podcast on stop and frisk that dives headlong into the conversation about how one particular policing method became a focal point for conversations around gun violence prevention in 2022.
Stop and Frisk: Revisit or Resist explores how a more visible and utilized stop and frisk police tactic might curb gun violence and improve public safety. Over a two-plus month reporting period, WHYY News Gun Violence Prevention Reporter Sammy Caiola and Logan Center Director Yvonne Latty talked to community members, public officials, experts, legal professionals, citizen advocates, and the police. They compiled their work into a five-episode podcast that considers how Philadelphia might apply a renewed stop and frisk — an underreported topic that requires deeper contemplation.
This reporting project came to pass after City Council President Darrell Clarke made headlines as he introduced the idea of a more visible stop and frisk policy as a solution to gun violence following a mass shooting on South Street in July. We unpack the history of the controversial topic and gain community perspectives to explain where the city must go from here.
By taking an in-depth look at how Philadelphia arrived at this point, I recognize this podcast and story content may be triggering and traumatic to some audiences and listeners. Each episode of the podcast starts with an audio editor’s note from me and a content warning. The stories told are sobering and the community introspection is at times painful. We understand our role as journalists is to tell the truth, even when doing so brings harsh and even unpleasant subjects to light. I recognize as a news leader that we cannot dumb down the realities, the experiences, and the challenges borne by victims and co-victims of violence.
Stories about death and shootings may be difficult to listen to and can be jarring at times. Our reporting team took great care to show empathy to our subjects, while documenting the truth and the impact of their stories and experiences. As city data illustrates, most shooting victims are Black men. Thus, it was imperative that our news team made certain that Black men were given voice in this episodic podcast. We ensured that listeners heard authentic voices and underreported perspectives throughout the body of work and in every podcast episode we presented.
We understand that this subject matter may be difficult and experienced as traumatic for some of our listeners and readers. We offer to anyone consuming these stories about gun violence prevention some resources to help process some of the thoughts and feelings that may arise.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) provides an overview for how to cope with traumatic events that provides insights, such as that responses to trauma can be “delayed, brief or prolonged.” Some of the symptoms or responses to trauma might be feeling anxious, sad, or angry and trouble concentrating and sleeping. NIMH offers mental health tips, such as the recommendation that “staying active is a good way to cope with stressful feelings.”
There are also accessible telephone hotlines that someone who may be dealing with a traumatic response can call, such as the Disaster Distress Hotline 1-800-985-5990, 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (call or text 988), or the Veteran Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255.
WHYY News worked to ensure that our stories were centered on sharing the microphone with community members and those who have been most impacted by gun violence. It was essential to our staff that victims and co-victims were able to tell their own stories. We devoted ourselves in providing this coverage to show all sides of the arguments from various perspectives, including Black men, police, community members, experts, politicians, and the youth.
At WHYY News, we recognize that journalistic storytelling and shining a light, especially into the darkest places, might yield a stressful response. To cover this hard news topic, and maintain the goal of being fair as well as being considerate to the subjects in the newsgathering and storytelling process, I utilized the Dart Center Style Guide for Trauma-Informed Journalism in the editing process and consulted experienced veteran journalists and news leaders. We also pay attention to audience feedback and dialogue. It was because of a listener’s outreach that we were reminded of the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook which covers how to describe people who use drugs. Episode three of the podcast incorporates AP style that reduces stigma when reporting on addiction.
As WHYY News took an in-depth look at how Philadelphia stakeholders grappled with another year that progressed to 500-plus killings, we recognize that the conversation surrounding the use of stop and frisk and its potential impact was a debate that we needed to document and chronicle. The city’s back is up against the wall with diminishing options and actual lives in the balance. We ended our series of stories with a report on how Mayor Jim Kenney and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw are working to make Philadelphia safer with new gun violence prevention strategies afoot for 2023.
Thank you to our audiences for your input on the Stop and Frisk: Revisit or Resist project. WHYY News greatly appreciates receiving your feedback as this in-depth reporting is resonating with you. WHYY News is focused on unearthing solutions. As WHYY News continues to take on in-depth reporting projects, we are centering communities and civic dialogue in our work. Doing so is imperative for the newsroom to continue to grow its cultural competency.
How do you feel about stop and frisk (and policing more broadly) as an answer to Philly’s gun violence crisis? Get in touch.
WHYY Vice President of News and Civic Dialogue