Chicago stations beef up gun violence coverage

WTTW’s interactive coverage of gun violence features North Lawndale resident Jsaron Jones, who was a victim.

WGN-TV, WTTW go deeper covering epidemic

With Chicago gun violence continuing to attract global headlines, two stations are ramping up their efforts in order to help combat the problem.

WTTW and Nexstar’s WGN-TV are increasing their coverage on the epidemic with special reports, discussions, and creating more of a online presence.

In recent weeks, WGN has aired a number of special reports of the subject including bail reform; the “code of silence” on the streets, as witnesses refuse to cooperate with law enforcement on shootings and murders; and the odds of getting away with murder (a subject also brought up time and time again on WFLD’s Friday night public-affairs show Flannery Fired Up.) The station plans to air more special reports on gun violence in the weeks ahead.

WGN has also beefed up their web presence on the subject, with WGN’s reports available online on a special website “Unsolved”, which you can access here.

This comes as WTTW this week unveiled a more ambitious project. Titled “FirstHand: Gun Violence“, the public television station goes behind the scenes to see how the gun violence epidemic impacts neighborhoods, families, and the city and suburbs in general in a year-long initiative. The project can be accessed here.

Included in Firsthand:  stories produced in partnership with independent nonprofit publication The Trace, who covers the gun violence epidemic in America; several experts proposing solutions; and a 15-part documentary following five people living with the aftermath of gun violence. The special section also includes the latest news on how politicians and community leaders are trying to solve the epidemic.

The documentary was released Tuesday morning. Several clips were shown Tuesday on WTTW’s flagship news show Chicago Tonight.

Also planned is a discussion guide and a series of community meetings featuring residents, advocates, policymakers, and experts throughout Chicago. The first of those discussions took place Tuesday at Kennedy-King College in Englewood with those featured in Firsthand, urging city leaders to make gun violence and mental health a priority.

The initiative is led by WTTW boss Sandra Cordova Micek, who has made news and public affairs at the station a priority since she arrived at the station seventeen months ago. “WTTW is uniquely positioned to cover the important stories and critical issues facing our city,” Micek told Robert Feder on October 30. “We hope that through our work and this project, we fulfill our purpose to enrich lives, engage communities, and inspire exploration.”

While homicides and shootings are down in Chicago, it doesn’t mean the picture is improving. In a speech to police chiefs at McCormick Place last month, President Donald Trump slammed the city again for its gun violence epidemic, once again trying to score points with his base as he and conservatives often criticize the city and its leaders.

And just this week, a Chicago rapper was gunned down in Country Club Hills, a suburb six and-a-half miles from Chicago’s southern border as the story made global headlines – something Chicago is now used to. Despite the decline, Chicago still receives the lion’s share of gun violence coverage from the national media while ignoring places where the epidemic is just as rampant, such as St. Louis and St. Paul, Minn., where the city is headed for a homicide record.

Also, the city’s media outlets continue to stumble covering urban issues as I pointed out two months ago as newsrooms reporting on the issues facing African-American and Hispanic areas of Chicagoland continue to lack racial diversity.

But the initiative taken by two Chicago television stations seems to be a start as local stations have an obligation to serve the public – it differentiates them from the rest of the media landscape as more and more viewers are abandoning linear TV for streaming services and other options. While these stories paint a grim picture of the city – and is even taking a toll on those who cover the carnage, it’s a harsh reality many in the Chicago area have to deal with on a daily basis.

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