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Most US gun violence never makes the national news; AP tells one family’s heart-wrenching story

In Athens, Ala., June 23, 2022, Daniel Guess holds a photograph of himself, right, along with his father, Larry Guess, center, and brother David Guess. David, 51, was shot to death in March over payment for an auto part — a seemingly routine dispute that escalated, like many U.S. incidents of gun violence. And like many such victims, his killing drew little attention outside his local area, but his death shattered many lives. (AP Photo / Brynn Anderson)

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Mass shootings are terrifying and command major media attention, but they represent a tiny fraction of American gun violence.

The vast majority of deadly shootings are not plotted and perpetrated against large groups of unsuspecting strangers; they are violent spasms in disputes between individuals that spin out of control. Often the victim and shooter know each other. And although rarely receiving national attention, these killings are just as traumatic for victims’ families and their communities.

To examine — and show — this less-recognized side of gun violence in America, reporter Michael Tarm, photographer Brynn Anderson, data journalist Angeliki Kastanis and digital storytelling producer Samantha Shotzbarger collaborated to produce “Gun violence in America: A long list of forgotten victims.”

This compelling narrative was chock full of big-picture insights about gun violence, and it was humanized by the deeply reported story of an Alabama man who was fatally shot by an acquaintance earlier this year. It also highlighted an inconvenient truth about reporting on gun violence: Major gaps in national data add to the challenge of political solutions.

Tarm’s law-enforcement expertise was pivotal in shaping the theme and identifying the story’s main character; Anderson’s stunning photography complemented the text and uncovered key details about the Alabama murder; Kastanis’ data analysis provided a factual foundation for authoritative writing; and Shotzbarger’s digital presentation gave audiences a visually arresting experience. The team worked collaboratively: As data,reporting and photos came in, they deliberated about the best way to frame the story and present it for maximum effect.

The journalists collaborated across departments to frame and present the story for maximum effect.

The project brought AP’s resources to bear on gun violence and elevated AP’s coverage just as a tragic July Fourth weekend unfolded in and around Chicago, putting guns back in the national spotlight. The “Forgotten Victims” story and photos received prominent play and landed above the fold on the front pages of at least two Alabama newspapers. The Chicago Tribune dedicated a full inside page to the story and photos.

For an insightful package that sheds light on the tragic toll taken by tens of thousands of U.S. gun deaths that do not make national headlines each year,the team of Tarm,Anderson, Kastanis and Shotzbarger earns AP’s Best of the Week — Second Winner.

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