All About

Our work

Our mission is driven from a desire to shore up our country’s democratic underpinnings. To fulfill it, we teach two distinct groups — journalists and nonprofits — how to tell better stories. We know without people seeing their concerns and realities reflected in journalism, the full stories will never be told, those that are will not be relevant to people and there can never be meaningful change. And we want change. We particularly intend to change the public narrative to ensure we are telling the full story about racism, sexism and xenophobia — things that are historically and deeply woven into the fabric of society. Our goal is to change the public narrative to ensure stories involving these issues are complete and include the voices of people, not just power.

With nonprofits:

We teach community groups and leaders we work on messaging and storytelling across platforms. By doing so, we reconnect people to their mission, help refocus their staff and reprioritize their work. Many of the people we work with are underrepresented voices, people of color and women — audiences that must see themselves in media outlets to continue to be media consumers.

With journalists:

We focus on issues by teaching best practices in journalism and providing resources that can help with the difficult task of issue reporting. We remind journalists that a complete story does not just outline the problem, but includes those working on solutions. We also help journalists find the people in the community dealing with those issues.

With both groups:

We bring neighborhood thought leaders and key organizations to journalists and vice versa, via our quarterly ‘speed-dating’ programs that focus on issue reporting.

What we believe:

  • We believe a free and informed press, as well as an educated public are the cornerstones of democracy.
  • We know also that an uninformed civil society not only suffers from being left out but falls victim to myths and stereotypes.
  • And we know that a media that does not reflect its audience and understand those concerns becomes irrelevant
  • Public Narrative’s goal has always been to amplify nonprofit and neighborhood voices, so they are not only heard but are part of the ongoing conversation on issues that affect them.


Founded in 1989 as the Community Media Workshop, Public Narrative was born out a the belief that a free and informed press, as well as an educated public, are the cornerstones of democracy.

The founders Hank DeZutter, a journalist and educator, and Thom Clark, a photographer and neighborhood nonprofit newsletter writer, saw that too many times, the voices of power were the ones quoted in news stories, rendering invisible the people working for change in the neighborhoods.Hank DeZutter, Studs Terkel, and Thom Clark

With a grant from The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the two men started training people who worked in nonprofits about the media. 

The next 25 years

In 1994, the Studs Terkel Community Media Award was born. This award is given each spring to journalists whose stories reflected the values of Terkel’s narrative storytelling. Since 1994, more than 70 journalists have been recognized for their work.

In 1995, we began producing a media guide, “Getting on the Air and Into Print,” which today provides contact information for over 7,000 Chicago-area journalists and media outlets.  2011_CMW_81

The Ethnic & Community Media Project was launched in 2009. The project supports the nearly 200 ethnic and community media outlets whose stories are part of the fabric of Chicago’s many neighborhoods.

Building a better Public Narrative

DeZutter retired in 2004 and 10 years later, Thom Clark stepped down as president, handing the reigns to Susy Schultz. That same year, Firebelly Inc. began a process to examine the organization’s impact on the city. They found that while the Workshop enjoyed great respect and many knew of the work, not many knew the name.

Therefore, in 2015, the organization was renamed Public Narrative, to better reflect the work of teaching storytelling to nonprofits and journalists.

Our Team

Susy Schultz

  • President
  • @susys
  • 312-369-6400

Susy is an editor, digital strategist, educator, writer and change agent, who has been telling stories for more than 20 years. 

In 2017, she was named one of the 20 most powerful women in Chicago journalism by media columnist Robert Feder. Her past titles include managing, digital and investigative editor, executive director, associate publisher, president, communications director, reporter, columnist and editorial writer.

Her current title is president of Public Narrative, an organization that works with and trains both nonprofits and the media —mainstream as well as the 170-some ethnic and community news outlets in Chicago’s neighborhoods. Schultz’s career has wound her through the worlds of journalism, academia, government, foundations and nonprofits. She ran the Chicago Department of Public Health's communication department and held the title of advocacy and communications director at the Chicago Foundation for Women. 

She has taught journalism at Columbia College Chicago, Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and Roosevelt University. She is the founding president of the Association for Women Journalists’ Chicago chapter, a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors, the Society of Professional Journalists and was president and vice president of JAWS, Journalism and Women’s Symposium.

Maggie Walker

  • Operations Manager
  • @maggie_walker12
  • 312-369-6402

Maggie has been working at Public Narrative since 2007, overseeing the bookkeeping and the event planning throughout the year. She is the moving force behind the annual fundraiser, the Studs Terkel Community Media Awards; and manages the year-round marketing efforts to promote the organization’s popular media guide, she also organizes the regularly scheduled trainings and the quarterly speed-dating programs for journalists and nonprofits. She and her husband live in the west suburbs with their daughter.

Isabel Vázquez

  • Media Manager
  • @ifvazquez
  • 312-369-6407

Isabel coordinates outreach and uses storytelling to create content about Chicago's media and communities. Before joining Public Narrative, Isabel was a lecturer at Atma Jaya University in Indonesia and an intern at StoryCorps in Chicago, where she got to know the city through the stories of its many communities. Passionate about facilitating communication between people, Isabel has used French, Indonesian, Hindi, Arabic and her native Spanish and English to meet and connect with people in Chicago and in her travels.

Keidra Chaney

  • Trainer
  • @kdc
Keidra has more than 15 years of experience in independent publishing, digital marketing strategy and social media community management. Her current focus is teaching and organizing professional development workshops/trainings in web analytics, social media, blogging, and publishing entrepreneurship.

Charlie Meyerson

  • Trainer
  • @meyerson
Charlie is a radio and internet journalist that is currently the Vice President of Editorial & Development at Rivet Radio. He brings expertise in podcast and audio news creation, content strategy, social media and media relations to his Public Narrative trainings.  

Click here for our Board of Directors and our Leadership Council