I love classic movies! In fact, if I seem to go missing to family and friends, it’s because I’m glued to Turner Classic Movies watching a Thin Man marathon or during the holiday season, watching The Bishop’s Wife with Loretta Young, Cary Grant, and David Niven or Christmas In Connecticut with Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, and Sydney Greenstreet. No remakes for me. Only these classics will do!

It was through classic films about journalism that I first learned about the 5 W’s and an H. Who, What, Where, When, Why … and How. Those 5 W’s and an H make for quality American film with stories dealing with power, truth, and frequently risk. Journalists — in film — are always questioning, conducting interviews, fighting with editors — all to get the complete story both honest and right.

Lately our American journalists have been coming under attack for not doing their jobs in the way we’ve come to expect or hope for. In my opinion, as someone concerned with gun violence prevention, it has been a longstanding problem as journalism seem to focus on the W’s and skip over H, the “how” when covering gun violence.

When yet another tragic shooting occurs — a mass shooting such as the one recently at the Fort Lauderdale airport or the many domestic violence shootings taking place across our country — journalists rarely ask How. How did the shooter get his or her gun? Did the shooter get the gun on-line, at a gun show, from a friend or family member, pass a background check even though there was a history of mental illness or violence or suicide attempts? Without finding out How, can we really address gun violence?

The shooter’s motive, the Why, is comforting. I’m not in a domestic violence situation. My child is not depressed. I don’t live in a neighborhood where gangs settle their differences with gunfire. If we can’t imagine ourselves or our family being subjected to a particular shooter’s motive, we feel safe. But gun violence has no boundaries. It takes place in movie theaters, shopping malls, airports, schools, on our neighborhood streets. We are always at risk of a shooter’s motive. By shifting the focus to motive — to Why — instead of asking HOW, the focus on easy access to guns continues to be diverted!

We need our journalists to ask HOW! And we need your help to make them.

Please, when reading or watching the coverage of a shooting, listen carefully. Did the reporter address the HOW? Did the reporter do the extra work of finding out how the shooter accessed the gun? If not, call them, write them, email them. Let them know that if we are to prevent gun violence, we need them to ask How.

Here are some phone numbers and email addresses you can program into your cell phone. Or print the list out and post it near your landline. We know that this is more than we usually ask of you. We know that this is an ongoing effort. But we also know that we can count on you, as we always do, to make a difference!

Phone: 1-212-664-4444
Email: letters@msnbc.com

Comment Line: 1-404-827-0234
Email: cnnfutures@cnn.com

ABC7 in Los Angeles
Phone: 1-818-863-7777
Ask for newsroom

CBS2 in Los Angeles; KCAL9 in Los Angeles
Phone: 1-818-655-2000
Ask for newsroom
Email: KCBS.KCAL.PAudit@cbs.com; kcbstvnews@cbs.com

CBS National
Phone: 1-212-975-3247

ABC National
Phone: 1-212-456-5100

Los Angeles Times
Letters to the Editor

My favorite classic film on journalism: Teacher’s Pet (1958) with Clark Gable and Doris Day.

About the Author

Margot Bennett
Margot BennettExecutive Director,
Women Against Gun Violence