Tomorrow morning: An opportunity to understand violence in Chicago | Bleader

Tomorrow morning: An opportunity to understand violence in Chicago

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Natalie Moore
  • Natalie Moore
Most journalists understand that covering violence isn't quite as simple as the old axiom has it—If it bleeds it leads.

For instance, it probably needs to bleed along North Michigan Avenue or on the Gold Coast. Lincoln Park is OK too.

Anywhere else—well, nobody's news hole is what it used to be.

Here's a proposition: when the journalism's done right, violence isn't so much covered as uncovered. The reasons for violence aren't necessarily obvious, and most of it goes on in places reporters don't normally get to.

Steve Franklin, a former Tribune reporter, the immediate past president of the Chicago Headline Club, and the ethnic news media director as well as a blogger for the Community Media Workshop, has posted a letter to the Headline Club membership that begins like this:

"Dear Colleague, We are sometimes only as good as our sources and lately I sense that we need more voices to tell us what’s happening with youth violence here."

Franklin's work for the CMW has involved creating alliances among black, Latino, and other ethnic news media in Chicago so they'll all have a better handle on issues (like violence) that they all cover. Franklin called Tuesday afternoon to give me a heads-up on an opportunity he's now created for the more mainstream reporters of Chicago to hear lots of new voices. At his initiative, the Headline Club is teaming up with the Community Media Workshop and Children's Hospital to hold a meeting Thursday morning from 9 to 11:30 in the first-floor gallery of Columbia College's journalism building, 33 E. Congress. Children's recently pulled together a coalition—Strengthening Chicago's Youth—of about 30 organizations that deal with youth violence on the street level, and their representatives will be on hand to give reporters an earful.

Says Franklin, "I discovered the folks organizing at Children's Hospital and suggested that they need to reach out to the news media—ethnic and mainstream—and help change the way violence gets told."

"Think speed interviewing. Think dozens of stories," he's telling the CHC membership. "Think contacts you never had before." Natalie Moore, who is WBEZ's south-side bureau chief, will moderate the event.

"We're asking journalists to come and get to know these groups. We'll be giving out a resource list," Franklin told me. The success of the meeting will be measured by the number of journalists who attend, and ultimately by the quality of the ongoing coverage of Chicago's mean streets. How discerning will it be? Will it look beyond the local police commander for explanations?

"If you're a journalist, we’ll kiss your feet and thank you for coming," says Franklin. There's no fee, but the sponsors would like journalists who plan to come to register here.

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