The Community: Fearful and Feared

Say you live in a dangerous place.

Say you worry just about going out.

Say you’ve had a neighbor, a relative, someone close get hurt.

Say you are a kid in high school and you think that the only way to live in peace is to be part of a gang.

Say you are worried and angry about what you see on your street, but you don’t see any solution so you keep your head down.

Say you figure you need to defend yourself, and so you get something or you know where to get a gun or you know someone you can count on in case you need protection.

Do you see the spiral here?

It’s the spiral of fear that runs in communities afflicted by crime.

It’s a spiral that leaves communities so traumatized that they don’t talk about the violence to anyone, or talk about it all the time or they make decisions about protecting themselves that puts them inside the spiral because they are armed or because they have segued into the defensive mood, making what seems to be a normal adaption to an abnormal reality.

Or they just pick up and move out and that’s what a lot of people have done in Chicago.

This is what happens, I think, in parts of Chicago where the roar of violence has been deafening. These are communities suffering from post-traumatic shocks

And so, the challenge for journalists is understanding and explaining what takes place in these communities.

It is explaining why people button up themselves, rather than blaming them for shutting down and not talking. It is explaining why kids join gangs when there’s no reason they should have to.

It is reporting on the mental scars that linger far longer than the physical ones.

And so , if you go along with this idea, you begin to question some basics about your reporting. For example,  does it matter if someone is a gang member when you report on them?

Does the fact that the violence was even gang related matter as the most important thing you have to say?

If you accept this notion of the PTSD community, you may frame the story differently. Rather than coming down on the lack of snitches, you might wonder why the silence and collaboration prevails.

Here’s yet another thoughtful examination of covering violence by Natalie Moore, WBEZ’s Southside Bureau Chief which walks us along this path of thinking.

I’m picking up part of her discussion about reporting that wonders whether we  should draw a strong distinction between victims, whether they are gang involved or not.

She writes:

I’ve asked myself another question in the reporting process. What about the youths killed who aren’t “innocent”? The ones who were in the wrong place with the wrong company. The ones who brandished guns, retaliated a death, flirted with gangs, dropped out of school, failed to make the honor roll or didn’t have a photogenic social media picture. The black and brown youths who are anonymous or receive a news brief instead of a news conference.

Is it the news media’s responsibility to give these young adults worthy coverage? Or would their stories dilute the conversation around youth violence?

“In many ways, these kids are victims as well,” said community-violence expert Dexter Voisin, an associate professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. “Schools aren’t graduating kids successfully, and these kids are also the victims of structural violence. These kids are becoming products of their community.”,1&wpisrc=root_lightbox 

What do we think?

Have you done this kind of reporting?

Can you share your reporting with us? Do you think this makes sense or matters?

Or are we missing something?

Talk to me.


On Friday, March 22 at6 pm, Episcopalians from across northern Illinois and partners in more than 65 faith-­‐based and civic organizations will gather for CROSSwalk, a second annual four-­‐mile procession to remember Chicago’s murdered youth.
CROSSwalk  also works to connect participants with opportunities to protect children, mitigate violence and support families.
The event will begin with a service on the plaza at St. James Commons, 65 E. Huron, Chicago. For more info:

photo by Carlos Javier Ortiz, 312 369 6400



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