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More Than a Number: A look at what impact news coverage has on the community after homicides

Leaders in Macon say adding a face with a name would grab the attention of someone watching more than a number or statistic ever could.

MACON, Ga. — Spreading the word about changing the approach to covering crime will take more than one person.

We've turned to law enforcement, crime prevention organizations, schools, non-profit organizations and prosecutors who work with the families of violent crime victims.

After presenting 13WMAZ's "More Than a Number" project to them in early June 2023, we wanted to hear their ideas on how we can humanize our approach.

Deborah Jackson works with a group called Resilient Middle Georgia.

She helps to train adults how to recognize trauma in children.

It's a challenge she faced at a much younger age.

"If we would have had this early on, a lot of issues that I deal with and other people deal with as adults, we wouldn't have these issues," Jackson explained.

Those are problems, she believes, that range from violence to not being equipped with the resources to deal with everyday life.

"Trauma is a major issue [and] it's very expensive to be traumatized and not have help," Jackson explained.

When violent crimes happen, often important details about one's mental health, for example, aren't discovered until later.

As journalists, it's our duty to report what we know, but missing information and context can sometimes impact how people view news coverage.

Frank Dixon works with Cure Violence Macon, a group focusing on crime prevention.

He and Jackson both feel people are desensitized to the violent crimes they see on the news.

"If we are going to give all the bad news, we [have to] offset it with some good news or help with the healing process," Dixon said.

He believes much of the media coverage today is negative.

He added that the only way to improve this perception is by going beyond the numbers.

"Last year, we had 70 homicides. What is the status of those homicides? How are the families doing? How is the community healing," Dixon said.

An approach like this, he added, could make a difference in how Central Georgians view the stories shared on television.

"You want to be honest on what's going on, but you don't want to make people think this is the end," Dixon said.

As for Deborah, she said adding a face with a name would grab the attention of someone watching more than a number or statistic ever could.

"It could really help to know this was a grandmother or this was somebody's grandfather or son taken too soon," Jackson said.


More Than A Number is a Poynter-Stand Together award-winning project by Justin Baxley designed to help families of loved ones impacted by tragedy and trauma interact with journalists in a less intrusive way. 

The initiative's goal is to give a face to the victim and a voice to the family and give the family more control over the process. In addition to the memorial page and the form page, a resource guide will be available to help families in the aftermath of their loved one's death with connections to various organizations for help with things such as counseling, cleanup and funeral costs.

More Than A Number will officially launch in August with a streaming special available on 13WMAZ+ for on-demand streaming. For any questions or concerns about More Than A Number, contact us here at the following email.

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