It's
All About
The
Story

Mission

Our mission is driven from a desire to shore up our country’s Democratic underpinnings.

  • 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 give voice to the voiceless, to help ensure the nonprofit and neighborhood voices are not only heard but are part of the ongoing conversation on issues that affect them.

The work

To fulfill our mission, we teach two distinct groups — journalists and nonprofits — how to tell better stories.

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 ‘other 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.

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.

History

Born in 1989, our founders were driven by a desire to shore up the Democratic underpinnings of our governmental structure. The men who founded the Community Media Workshop believe, as we still do today, that a free and informed press as well as an educated public are the cornerstones of Democracy.

These men also knew that an uninformed civil society not only suffers from being left out, but falls victim to myths and stereotypes.

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 downtown power were the ones quoted in news stories, rendering invisible the men and women working for change in the neighborhoods. And a full story needs all these voices.

Hank DeZutter, Studs Terkel, and Thom Clark

So, with a grant from The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the two men started training people who worked in nonprofits. The trainings educated neighborhood nonprofits about how the media work but it also helped people organize their thoughts and messages about the work they were doing. It taught people how to become better storytellers.

The two taught professional media relations at Malcolm X College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago.

Studs Terkel Awards

In 1994, the Studs Terkel Community Media Award was born. This was — and still is — given to journalists whose stories reflected the values of Terkel’s narrative storytelling. Since then, more than 70 journalists have been recognized for their work each spring. These days, the Terkel legacies is carried on and the award is chosen by a committee of past Terkel winners.

Since 1995, we’ve been producing a media guide, “Getting on the Air and Into Print,” which gave contact information for Chicago journalists on radio, television and in print. These days the online guide has more than 5,000 entries and contacts through Chicago and the Midwest. 

2011_CMW_81

Since then, the organization has spread its wing to train not only nonprofits, but journalists as well, to help them become better storytellers about complex neighborhood issues.

The Ethnic Media Project was launched in 2009, thanks to the work of former Chicago Tribune foreign correspondent and business reporter Stephen Franklin. The project supports the nearly 200 ethnic and community media outlets whose stories are part of the fabric of Chicago’s many neighborhoods.

The next 25 years

Founder DeZutter retired in 2004 and 10 years after, 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. After nine months, they found that while the Workshop enjoyed great respect and many knew of the work — the classes, the reports, the guide and the Terkel award — not many knew the name.

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

Our Team

Susy Schultz

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.

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

IMG_0011

Maggie Walker

  • Operations Manager
  • 312-369-6402

Maggie has been working at the organization for seven years, 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 15 regularly scheduled trainings and the quarterly speed-dating programs for journalists and nonprofits. She and her husband live in the west suburbs and are awaiting their first child.

DSC_0007

Isabel Vázquez

  • Media Manager
  • 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.

Annie Malecek

Annie Malecek

  • Research Associate
  • 312-369-6408

Annie has spent the past four years delving into diversity related issues at Colorado College, as she recently earned her undergraduate degree in Sociology. Although a new addition to Public Narrative, she is extremely passionate about inter-cultural exchange and Chicago’s capacity for community building. Here, Annie works to support the current staff,  She is planning on moving to Korea this coming fall, hoping to expand, re-conceptualize, and build a community of her own.

         

Click here for the list of our Board of Directors and our Leadership Council