Who Should Be Face of Chicago Violence?

As the death toll mounts, a journalist struggles with telling stories of children under siege.

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"Chicago's geography, history [and] arrangement in terms of space and racial segregation ... creates these kind of niches that make youth violence more problematic for us," Voisin said. "We need to look at the larger context in which people are living."

That context doesn't filter into most news stories about violence in Chicago. Timing and space contribute to the restricted coverage in a fast-paced media cycle.

Then I ask myself a different set of questions. Should Chicago's violence be put into a global context in which our rates pale? Do I sound callous for even suggesting that?

Research in the area of media's effects on society lists various social science theories. One of them is cultivation theory -- that media shapes how people view the world, and over time, media use will cultivate a particular view of the world within its users. That means television viewers who consume a lot of violence could develop a perception that the world is a lot more violent than it actually is. Couldn't this theory apply to viewers who watch the daily "who got shot today" news story?

My struggle with telling stories isn't just personal; the local news corps is powerful and plays a role in how African Americans see themselves in the city. I collectively critique our methods. I frequently engage in a self-check, and hope that asking questions can produce meaningful conversations around violence. I know I'm not the only one.

Meanwhile, a gun-crackdown measure named after Hadiya Pendleton just passed a U.S. Senate panel. The bill is the first piece of gun legislation since last December's deadly Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.

If change is afoot with this bill, then I'll have to rethink some of my own internal questions and ask another set of questions with a dash of optimism.

Natalie Y. Moore is a reporter for WBEZ-Chicago Public Media. Follow her on Twitter.

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