Crime

Finding solutions to youth violence focus of new Macon journalism partners project

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Why This Matters

For the next nine months, The Telegraph along with our partners at Mercer University, Georgia Public Broadcast and WMAZ- TV will examine efforts to curb youth violence and report on some of the solutions that are working for community members, local groups and institutions, as well as those being tried in other communities that might be replicated here.


Less than a year ago, The Telegraph promised our readers that they would see “a shift in crime coverage.”

In the November 2018 article, Tim Regan-Porter, South Region editor for The Telegraph, wrote we will report “fewer stories that don’t directly impact a large segment of the community” and we will also develop more stories that rely on “deeper reporting.”

That promise was the first step in The Telegraph’s continuing commitment to expand the kind of reporting that we do about our community, the kind of reporting that reflects a more balanced perspective of what happens here in Middle Georgia.

In the past 11 months, we have made many changes related to our crime coverage and to our reporting overall. And more changes are coming.

Before I tell you about what we have planned next in partnership with the Center for Collaborative Journalism at Mercer University, I’d like to share some of what we have done so far.

As part of our new approach to crime coverage, we developed a written internal guide. That guide provides a foundation for regular discussions about what crime news we report on, how we report it and why we choose not to cover certain crimes.

Editors and reporters are having more conversations about best practices for crime coverage. This is an effort that requires open and ongoing communication.

Sundra Hominik.jpg
Sundra Hominik Jason Vorhees jvorhees@macon.com

Also on the communication front, we have established a Community Advisory Council made up of readers like you. We’ve asked the council to give us candid feedback on our coverage and other issues. In our first two meetings, council members took us at our word. They gave us a lot to think about and to consider changing as we work to better serve the community.

We have created a new digital and social media space that we hope will help you get to know more about a wide variety of people and places in Middle Georgia. It’s called Positively 478, and you can read stories, see photographs and watch videos there, in addition to what you’ll find at macon.com and in print.

Finally, we are reporting and sharing deeper stories to help you better understand some of the important issues in Middle Georgia. Some of the bigger, deeper stories look at crime trends, others are connect-the-dot stories and others help hold the powerful to account.

For instance, in January our story about youth and guns examined the number of local teens killed by guns in the year since the Parkland, Florida, shootings. However, it also sought to determine why the shootings happened and included information about people, policies and programs seeking to help young people avoid the problems associated with gun violence.

Last month, after three teens were injured in a high speed police chase, we wrote a story to explain police pursuit policies and laws in the state and in Middle Georgia. The story discussed efforts by some to address concerns about such chases.

As with any kind of change, it will take time and continued effort to make sure that the recent shift moves in the right direction.

We will not always get it right. We have made and will make some mistakes. When we do, we want you to let us know.

We promise we will listen to your criticisms and critiques as we plan future coverage. We promise we will try to learn from what you tell us.

Why reporting on youth violence matters

In recent months, we’ve listened as many of you said that one of the most difficult challenges facing our community is youth crime and violence.

The results of the 2018 Macon On The Table conversations, which brought together nearly 5,000 people and sought their opinions, showed that violence/gangs was listed as the top issue facing youths.

Research done by Adam Ragusea, a CCJ journalist in residence, indicates that there is “a clear upward trend in violence as suspects age through the teenage years, peaking and plateauing around the age of 18,” based on data provided by Bibb County Sheriff’s Office.

This data, along with several conversations with those working to find solutions to youth violence, helps explain why this topic matters and why The Telegraph’s next big step is a collaborative project launching Sunday called Peacing Together: Solutions to Youth Violence.

For the next nine months, The Telegraph, along with our partners at Mercer University, Georgia Public Broadcasting and WMAZ-TV will examine efforts to curb youth violence. We will report on some of the solutions that are working for community members, local groups and institutions, as well as those being tried in other communities that might be replicated here.

With some guidance from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit group that helps journalists, the reporting project will focus on sharing information, profiles, stories and videos about what’s working and how and why the solutions are working.

We also hope to help readers understand the tangible and intangible cost of youth violence for everyone in our community.

This is Peacing Together

The Telegraph plans to report at least one story each month between now and May 2020. As we develop these stories, we invite you to share your insights and comments about this issue.

The partnership will host events in the next few months to encourage community conversations. The first conversation will be part of the 2019 On the The Table talks planned for Oct. 30

We know this important community issue is top of mind for many of you, including those most affected by it — our local youth.

When Sonya Green, CCJ engagement reporter, talked recently with a group of Macon teens, many of them said they are worried about their futures and for their safety.

“You know your house is supposed to be somewhere where you can go to for comfort and safety, but you know over here, I don’t have that safety because there’s a lot of violence happening ...” one young girl said.

Helping find ways to make this girl and thousands of others feel safer in Macon is one of the best reasons why The Telegraph and its partners are making Peacing Together: Solutions to Youth Violence a high priority in our reporting efforts during the next few months.

Sundra Hominik is Senior Editor of The Telegraph. She can be reached at shominik@macon.com

Follow more of our reporting on Youth violence in Middle Georgia: Why This Matters

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