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2014 Topical Reporting, Medium Newsroom finalist

Guns Reporting

 

Finalist(s)
Mark Follman, Jaeah Lee, Brett Brownell, Tasneem Raja, Josh Harkinson, Ben Breedlove, AJ Vicens, Maggie Caldwell, Nina Liss-Schultz

Organization
Mother Jones

Award
Topical Reporting, Medium Newsroom

Program
2014

Entry Links
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About the Project

Over the last year, Mother Jones has covered nearly every angle of gun violence: mass shootings, assault weapons, background checks, legislative efforts, the gun lobby’s attempts to curb regulation, and more. We’ve chosen several highlights that reflect the scope and breadth of our reporting on the topic of guns.

In advance of the December 2013 anniversary of the killings in Newtown that claimed 27 lives, Mother Jones senior editor Mark Follman, who created our “Guide to Mass Shootings in America” took on a new, especially devastating aspect of the guns beat: He led a group of reporters in documenting the children ages 12 and under who were killed by firearms in the year since the Sandy Hook tragedy.

The team undertook an exhaustive analysis, scouring news reports to generate a comprehensive picture of the effects of guns on children in America. Their findings were stark: In the last year alone, guns killed at least 194 children—across 43 states, from inner cities to rural towns. Their average age: 6. The vast majority—127 in total—died in their own homes, with 72 children pulling the trigger themselves or being shot by another child and 60 dying at the hands of their own parents. As many cases don’t make the news, Follman cites medical research that pegs the actual number of child deaths from guns to around 500 each year.

To represent the scope of this issue, the team published a report analyzing the data behind the deaths, complemented by six original charts and a video breaking down the facts of this worrisome trend. All of the data—including information about the victims and the circumstances of their deaths—was made publicly available for others to use.

To keep the children from being represented as mere statistics, the project includes an interactive gallery with photos and biographies memorializing each victim. The special report was published as part of a larger project titled “Newtown: One Year After,” that included investigations revealing how gun manufacturers had marketed their weapons to children and analysis of how state gun laws had changed one year after one of the worst mass shootings in American history.

The following January, Follman was one of the first journalists to shine a light on rampant gun trafficking on social media platforms, with an in-depth investigation of gun sales on the social sharing site Reddit. A few weeks later, Facebook came under scrutiny for similar activity on its platform, and soon announced significant policy changes with regard to online gun sales.

Most recently, he and his team published a series of articles revealing the tactics used by gun-rights extremists to advance their agenda—including aggressively bullying and degrading women, harassing a Marine veteran, and publicly flaunting semi-automatic rifles in restaurants like Chipotle and Chili’s, and stores like Target. The articles were accompanied by video footage depicting the demonstrations and harassment. Our reporting and presentation of the videos resulted in several of the stories going viral, drawing a combined audience of more than 4 million and eliciting responses from several corporations involved. The investigations also helped provoke an unusual rebuke of the gun activists from the National Rifle Association, a story that Mother Jones also was first to report.

Overall, Mother Jones has positioned itself as a leader in its reporting of guns. The impact of our reporting on guns has been vast and significant. It has been shared far and wide and cited by every major media outlet in the country. Policymakers, activists, academic journals, and others, have cited our reporting, while corporations and the NRA have been forced to respond to it. Follman appeared on numerous programs, including NPR’s All Things Considered, CNN, MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes, and Fusion’s America to discuss these stories.