Monday, September 16, 2013

Using Street Violence to Sell Newspaper

This photo was on the front page of my Chicago Tribune yesterday. If you're a subscriber to the Tribune's internet site you can read the full story online. The print version included two full pages of stories about kids in Chicago who have been victims of street violence.

Included was a map showing where these shootings occurred, which is mostly on the West and South parts of Chicago. I've been pointing to media stories like these for the past 20 years as part of an effort to get more people involved in strategies that build and sustain a wide range of youth serving organizations in these areas.
Here's one story I wrote in July 2010. It includes a copy of the Chicago SunTimes from October 1992 after Dantrell Davis was killed. Here's a story I wrote in 2008 following a SunTimes series about how street violence impacts inner city kids. In this I posted maps of neighborhoods where violence was taking place, with a call for people to be involved in supporting those programs.

I've been following media stories with map-stories since 1993 when I formed the Tutor/Mentor Connection. Since I never have had advertising dollars to attract public attention, I try to build off of the attention the media have generated with negative news, and images of kids and suffering parents. In my stories I always post a link to the story I'm talking about. However, after a year or two, maybe shorter, these stories are no longer available at the same link. Thus, they don't have an accumulated weight that might motivate more people to become involved in trying to reduce the conditions that cause the violence in the first place. Recently the papers have been hiding these stories behind subscription services, and I feel that further reduces the number of people who will read the story and be motivated to get involved.

While the Tribune and SunTimes and other media have community service and charitable foundations, these only provide funding to a small group of the youth serving organizations in the city and suburbs, and only a small portion of the total funds every youth organization needs every year. Using the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator, and drawing from maps that are produced by media and other organizations, I've been able to create graphics and map stories, like below, to try to draw people together who would innovate ways to build a better distribution of resources to all of the neighborhoods where youth serving organizations and other services are needed on an on-going basis.

I think youth can learn to create these visualizations. Interns working with me have been doing this for several years. You can see examples at this page.
I'm hosting another Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference in Chicago on Monday, November 4 and will be doing a series of workshops showing how to use maps to create stories, and how youth can create and communicate these stories as part of their own learning and service. I'm still looking for additional volunteers to host workshops at this conference, and others who will help build participation. If you'd like to get involved email me at or fill out the workshop presenter form on this page.

I've collected media stories that draw attention to violence and poorly performing schools for almost 20 years. I've seen passionate editorials saying we need to do something. Yet, I've not seen a consistent effort to draw people together and draw resources to youth serving organizations and schools that works like the advertising done by most corporations every day to draw people to their stores and sell products and services.

Since media outlets are in business to generate profit we need to find others who will provide the resources and leadership that makes the archive of media stories more open to community activists, and that encourages media stories to point to directories of youth serving organizations throughout the region so more are supported by the people who are reading and following the daily news.

What would you do to make this happen?

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