Remembering and learning from Sandy Hook six months on

Annie Anderson
Engagement and Inclusion Manager
Public Insight Network

Editor’s note: We’re highlighting the work being done in partner newsrooms that have received Public Insight Network engagement funding. |  Follow the progress of our coverage as we go.

Naomi Starobin, news director at WSHU Public Radio in Fairfield, Conn., has been spearheading a project for the six-month anniversary of the shootings in Newtown at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

WSHU knew it wanted to cover this anniversary, but was not sure what its audience and community would desire or expect from the coverage. So it asked them. It pursued the topics of gun control and mental health, but also why this shooting got more attention than shootings in urban areas in the state.

As part of the project, WSHU Public Radio brought together people who were very close to the issues for an hour-long discussion to gain some insight.

Naomi answered a few questions about the project.

Scott Jackson, chair of the Governor's Sandy Hook Advisory Commission and Newtown First Selectman Pat Llordra welcome Mark Barden, father of Daniel Barden, who was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, to WSHU's forum on the six-month anniversary of the shootings.

Mayor Scott Jackson, chair of the governor’s Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, is greeted by Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra as Mark Barden, father of Daniel Barden, who was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, looks on. They were attending WSHU’s forum on the six-month anniversary of the shootings. | (Photo by Janice Portentoso/WSHU)

What’s your role in this project?

I prepared the proposal with my team of reporters, and I directed the project once we won the funding.

Where did the idea for this topic come from? 

I had a thinking session with several reporters, and we put a few ideas together. Back then, it was only a couple of months since the Newtown shootings, and it was clear that some major issues were emerging … issues that citizens, advocates and politicians were going to be facing. Of course we had little idea what exactly we’d want to talk about at the six-month mark, but it was clear there would be a lot to address.

What communities or groups are you focused on engaging with? Why?

Community members in discussion at WSHU's forum on the six-month anniversary of the Newtown shootings. Photo credit Janice Portentoso/WSHU

Community members discuss the six-month anniversary of the Newtown shootings at WSHU’s forum. | (Photo by Janice Portentoso/WSHU)

The people of Newtown, of course, including political leaders and people who have become active forming nonprofits having to do with gun control, mental health, etc. We also reached out to advocates for reducing gun violence in urban  areas. That’s been an important aspect of this story: Why does a shooting in Newtown get more attention than one in Hartford, for instance, and how will the legislative changes enacted affect the level of gun violence in cities.

How are you planning to engage with your audience around this topic? What do you think they’ll find compelling about these stories?

We’ve had robust response to our PIN query, and we used it to shape a dialogue between our reporter and host that we aired on the day marking six months since the shooting. We also used those responses to shape some of the questions put to a panel in an hour-long special that we produced and aired.

What are you hoping the impact of this project will be?

It’s already fostered discussion between Newtown people and people connected with movements to reduce urban gun violence. That has been very interesting to watch and we’ll continue watching it.  Also, the hour-long special helped listeners understand some of the more critical issues in depth.



Annie Anderson Engagement and Inclusion Manager
Public Insight Network

Annie Anderson has the privilege of working with PIN partners around the country, providing training, coaching and support. In the last two years she has focused on diversifying and growing the Network. She specializes in community engagement opportunities and counseling.

While earning a master’s in public policy from the Humphrey School, she yearned for journalism by the people that could inform and respond to policy. Enter PIN: journalistic civic agency at its finest. She deeply believes that everyone is an expert and knows their own experience better than anyone else.