In a virtual gathering on Wednesday night, August 12, Germantown community members told local journalists what they wanted to see in news coverage on issues of police reform.
Germantown Behind the Headlines: What Does the Future of Safety Look Like was organized by the Germantown Info Hub and Free Press. The Info Hub is a journalism news project in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. Our mission is to write stories about and for neighbors. Free Press is a group that advocates for reform and democracy in the media.
Thirty participants took part in the Zoom meeting, including journalists from WHYY, KYW News, The Inquirer, and NBC10. Neighbors and representatives from community organizations also attended, including Face to Face, Center in the Park and Philly Black Radical Collective.
Participants reviewed and discussed two articles about police reform. A story published by the Inquirer reported a city plan to roll out a new anti-violence strategy. The second article, from WHYY’s PlanPhilly, reported what defunding the police could mean in a neighborhood that endured a seven-hour standoff and police shootout involving more than 40 police officers in 2019.
Participants discussed how media coverage can re-traumatize victims and perpetuate stereotypes about Black and Brown communities. They questioned a lack of diverse voices represented in the selected pieces.
Social activist and member of the Philly Black Radical Collective, Megan Malachi, took part in the event. Malachi has organized protests calling for defunding of the police and highlighting the lack of transparency in police funding. She felt that the Inquirer story, about a program to address the 26% increase in violence this year, lacked community input. She said that in her experience, journalists often ignore community members when collecting sources.
“Journalists show up to some of these community events against police violence; unfortunately, in my experience, they show up late,” Malachi said. “When they show up, they go and talk immediately to the police or elected officials. So then there’s also this assumption that the police are telling the truth.”
Free Press and the Germantown Info Hub closed the event by ensuring community members that both organizations want to continue the conversation on how police reform is covered.