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KPBS Announces Public Safety Coverage Mission and Guidance

KPBS News has released a public safety coverage document stating what it will and will not cover in news stories around public safety issues. The policy guides editorial decisions on what stories are prioritized and what stories are avoided, as well as whose narratives are needed to tell complete stories that best serve its audiences. The policy can be viewed here.

"Communicating what we will and will not cover gives our audiences a clearer picture of who we are as a news organization and internally allows us to focus resources in more impactful ways," says Terence Shepherd, news director.

The public safety coverage guidance document was created to provide clarity for the news team and the public on not only what KPBS News covers but how it will cover it.

The following is a list of the types of public safety stories KPBS will prioritize:

  • Wildfires and other high impact disasters
  • Crime trends/serial or high profile murders with added data and/or historical context
  • Police shootings with outside expert perspective and community voices
  • Crime trends with historical and/or data-driven context
  • Crime that brings to light systemic issues
  • Issues of high impact to the community — "news you can use" and stories that clarify the facts on an issue

The following is a list of types of stories KPBS will aim to avoid or discuss prior to covering:

  • Individual house fires
  • Homicides or crime without context
  • Police shootings or in-custody deaths with only the police narrative on what happened
  • Single crime statistics shared by police without verifying and contextualizing
  • Crime that paints a narrow picture of a community
  • Issues of no real impact to the community, but that cause public fear or alarm without providing context

The policy was shaped through months of training with the Poynter Institute. The entire news team and KPBS staff as a whole provided input into a draft of the policy. Input was also sought from public information officers of public safety-related institutions, as well as community organizations.

"It is rare for a news department to take this step in institutionalizing a public document that clearly and transparently states how it will tell these stories,” Shepherd says. “It is imperative for journalists and editorial leaders to make these policies to earn and maintain the public's trust."

For more information:
Heather Milne Barger
Director of Communications