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
  • 312-369-6403

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.

Jhmira Alexander

  • President
  • @jhmiralatrice
  • 312-369-6400
Jhmira Alexander has worked with After School Matters, Loyola University’s Risk and Resiliency Lab, Blue 1647 and The Institute for Positive Living. Jhmira is a connector of people and ideas. She focuses on assisting organizations with properly aligning their vision with their online & offline community engagement through social media education, management and strategy development. Holding a Bachelors of Science in Communications & Master of Public Administration Degrees, her drive to cultivate communities through media is unwavering. Jhmira’s background includes project management, youth development, community engagement and program design & execution.

Serenity Barren

  • Administrative Assistant
  • @nittysknocker
  • 312-369-6402
When you hear the word Serenity, what goes through your mind? Tranquility, Peace, Warmth, Happiness. Serenity believes she portrays each of those things plus more. Serenity aspires to be everything she ever thought she could be growing up, and that is a person who never gives up, no matter the circumstances. Serenity received her training in Marketing and Branding at Columbia College Chicago. Her broadcast training was acquired at the Illinois Media School. Her additional skills include web design and graphic design. Growing up in some of Chicago's urban communities, Serenity has always been intrigued by the variety of ways technology can be useful. Serenity uses broadcasting to make an impact on the lives of many.  

Click here for our Board of Directors and our Leadership Council

Jeremy Borden

  • Trainer
Jeremy Borden covers policy and politics at the local and national level as an independent journalist based in Chicago. He is a national politics reporter for Cannabis Wire and has worked for the Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor and City Bureau, among other publications.

Matt Cardoni

  • Trainer
Matt Cardoni is a digital marketing consultant and educator with over 23 years of experience making & promoting websites. He specializes in search engine marketing, including PPC, SEO & web analytics. He teaches at the University of Iowa MBA program, Ascend Training, General Assembly, and is teaching at Kellogg/Northwestern this Winter. He earned a biomedical engineering 1998 and received his MBA in Marketing in 2006. He aims to make learning fun and interactive, and uses as many cat jokes as possible.

Darren Calhoun

  • Trainer
Darren Calhoun is an advocate, worship leader, and photographer based out of Chicago. He works to bridge relationships between people of differing perspectives through story and relationship. Intersectionality is his primary lens when facilitating dialogue and education about justice and inclusion for people marginalized based on race, gender, and/or sexuality. In addition to his work at Public Narrative, Darren is Worship Leader at Urban Village Church and an Associate Fellow at Evangelicals for Social Action. He serves on the board of directors with national organizations like The Reformation Project, The Center for Inclusivity, and Q Christian Fellowship. He’s lead workshops and training for conferences, organizations, and community groups from coast to coast. Follow him on social media at @HeyDarren or visit his site:

Isabel Vázquez

  • Trainer
  • @ifvazquez
Isabel Vázquez is Third Coast's Producer for all radio shows and podcasts. Before joining Third Coast, Isabel was the StoryBooth Intern for StoryCorps in Chicago, where she edited short stories for community partner organizations. Isabel moved to Chicago after a year living in Indonesia, where she taught English and got in only two motorbike crashes. In her spare time, she swaps her headphones for a helmet to skate with her team on the roller derby track.