NBC Nightly News on Sunday devoted the first 14 minutes of the broadcast to a single story: The shootings that unfolded in four major cities during the previous night.
While the wave of horrific mass shootings garner nationwide attention, “far more Americans are killed in smaller incidents” across the country each night, Kate Snow, who anchors on Sundays, said at the top of the broadcast. Snow and three other correspondents worked overnight shifts in different cities to capture “how gun violence is destroying communities and plaguing our country.”
In an interview with Deadline, Snow said that Nightly News weekend executive producer Matt Frucci “had been thinking about the horrific gun violence we report on, especially when there is a mass shooting, obviously the news media responds in a huge way when that happens. But when you work the weekend shift, you notice that every Sunday we would be talking about the violence on Saturday and seeing if we could fit a little bit in our show. That just felt wrong to Matt. He felt like we should spend a night, really focusing on the daily, unfortunately horrifically routine violence that is happening in places all over the country.”
Frucci said, “We cover those individual shootings when they happen, whether it is a bad weekend in Chicago or a bad weekend in Philadelphia. What’s been a challenge to cover and get across is kind of the totality of that, just how often it occurs. It literally happens every night in America, more so on weekend nights, but every night in America. In cities and towns across the country there is gun violence, and it is so hard to capture largeness of those numbers. You can look at the statistics, and it’ll tell you yes, there are 40,000 gun deaths on average every year. But’s hard to kind of get across who these people are, how those gun deaths are happening, how it is affecting communities, how it is tying up our police forces and our health care system.”
Snow was in Chicago following Pastor Donovan Price, who ministers to gun violence victims and their families. Price told Snow that he’s responded to 1,000 homicides in his career, and Saturday was no different, as he counseled the family members of another victim.
Gabe Gutierrez was at the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where he reported on two gunshot victims, one of whom did not survive. That is apparent when the call for “time of death” is made by a member of the medical team trying to save a life.
Gadi Schwartz was embedded with the Houston Police Department’s overnight commander Larry Crowson and was on the scene for two shootings. One involved a kidnapping and, in the other, he arrived just after the incident occurred, to the sight of distraught family members and emergency vehicles. By 3:30 AM, Schwartz reported that there had been a total of 6 shootings in the Houston area within about six hours.
Jesse Kirsch did a ride-a-long with the Philadelphia Police Department, where the first incident was reported in the late afternoon. In one case, police responded to a young child wandering in the streets. “The boy has been reunited with his family, but to think about a young child standing out on these streets in the middle of the night, based on everything we have seen in the area, it is really tough to think about,” Kirsch said.
The project took several months to plan and then produce, with extra personnel brought in to meet the deadline, Frucci said. He called the project “one of the more challenging things I’ve had to do in my career, because it is both the logistics of getting the footage overnight, so we had to get the teams out into the field, we had to make sure they were doing it safely.” Over the past several weeks, they held a number of meeting on security for the correspondents and crew. A team of 20 people was enlisted to start going through the footage starting at 5 AM ET. Six different editors worked on the piece for completion by Sunday evening.
Snow said that Price “was not only willing, he was begging us to please, please show what is happening here,” Snow said. “He said to me last night, ‘This isn’t going to change until the country pays attention to the endemic gun violence, to the every weekend, every night.”
At 7:35 PM on Saturday, she said, Price already had heard reports of two shootings.
“What he does is he waits by his phone, looking for texts, looking for radio traffic, watching kind of a scanner app. And when he sees a shooting in progress or a shooting that has just happened and someone is being sent to the hospital, he runs to it, and he finds the families and he shepherds them and he prays with them, and he provides all manner of services.”
Snow said that Price introduced her to a woman, Diane Archer, who has lost both of her grown sons to violence. “The last one was the day before Mother’s Day, and her son had just bought her a cake for Mother’s Day and he was shot down in her house. And what Pastor Donovan did is get on his knees afterward and scrub the floor of his blood, because he didn’t want that mom to look at that.”
Price told Snow that there hasn’t been enough focus on such “local” gun violence. “When it happens over there, man,” he said. “When it happens over here, that’s them. That’s what they do. That’s how they live.”
Snow said that she asked Price, How do we fix this? What can we all do? “He said it starts with all of us, actually, all of us paying attention, not just me in my little community in Chicago. Everybody in the nation needs to pay more attention and be more invested in the solutions.”
The segment, however, did not get into political issues of gun control or the recent Supreme Court decision that expanded gun rights. Rather, it was devoted to the human side of one night of trauma.
Frucci said, “I hope that viewers take away an understanding that it’s not just big mass shootings that require attention. It is everyday shootings that require attention, because they are happening much more often than people probably think.”