Late last month, an initiative called Guns & America formed to investigate not only the violent crimes that happen as a result of firearms, but also how these weapons are sewn into our national fabric.
Over the course of two years and through a $5.3 million grant from the Kendeda Fund, Guns & America, in partnership with public radio station WAMU in Washington, D.C., will work with 10 partner stations, including Boise, Idaho; Kansas City, Missouri; Dallas, Texas; and Hartford, Connecticut, to offer a comprehensive and diverse view of gun culture.
Andi McDaniel, Guns & America’s senior director of content and news, spoke with Publishing Insider about the project and its goals.
Publishing Insider: What inspired the creation of Guns & America?
Andi McDaniel: We believe public media should be a leader in helping Americans understand and connect around challenging, entrenched issues — and it’s hard to think of a topic more entrenched than the debate around guns.
We saw an opening to tackle this topic in a fresh and meaningful way and also to harness the power of public media stations across the country that are deeply grounded in individual communities.
At the same time, the Kendeda Fund, a longtime public media partner, was interested in funding a project that could bring fair, accurate journalism to the topic of guns in American life. Once we connected, we quickly found that our goals overlapped.
PI: What does the staff behind Guns & America hope to accomplish with its reporting?
AM: We want to provide accurate, fair, human-focused and nuanced reporting on the polarizing topic of firearms in our nation. And it’s not just about mass shootings, or even negative stories. It’s about the culture of guns and hunting, it’s about the symbolic power of gun ownership; it’s also about the underground gun trade, as well as domestic violence, accidental deaths and suicide.
We want to bring unmatched journalism to the divisive issue of guns and we want to do it in a way that is fresh and accessible and puts the stories of real people front and center. Our mission is impact — we want to help people think more openly and empathetically about the challenges around guns.
PI: What kind of web presence will the initiative have? What types of cross-platform reporting are you planning to implement?
AM: Guns & America is multiplatform at its core. Our Reporting Fellows will be great storytellers as well as innovators—and they’ll constantly be thinking about how and where to most effective and impactful to tell each story—from infographics to audio stories, live events to live chats.
More technically speaking, our web presence will eventually live at gunsandamerica.org, and we’ll report across the usual social channels. We’ll also distribute content through our 10 partner stations, on-air and online. We’re in the process of seeking national partners—we’re particularly interested in non-traditional partners for public media.
In tandem with the Guns & America's reporting collaboration, we’re launching the Audion Fellowship, a first-of-its kind fellowship program designed to train and empower a diverse corps of innovative journalists to cover difficult topics and lead the public media system.
The first cohort of Audion Fellows will form the newsroom for Guns & America. The Guns & America partners will hire and host these fellows, who will work within specific local newsrooms to build a beat on the role of guns in American life.