All About

Our mission

Public Narrative is a Chicago-based nonprofit that facilitates training, programming and resource building focused on cultivating media literacy, uplifting community voices in media, and shifting narratives around public health, public safety, and public education.

We balance the public narrative through equity, inclusivity and authenticity frameworks in all aspects of media coverage: from storytelling to consumption and the production and promotion of all media forms.

We leverage the organization’s expertise in communications training and leading courageous discussions across diverse stakeholder groups, including journalists, youth, educators, members of law enforcement, researchers and other community members.

We engage in storytelling, interviews, focus groups and events for implementing narrative change strategies toward long-term, sustainable systemic change.

With nonprofits:

We teach community groups and leaders messaging and storytelling across platforms. 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, women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community — audiences that must be better represented by media outlets and hear more complete stories about themselves and their communities.

With journalists:

We teach best practices in journalism and provide resources that can help with issue reporting. We remind journalists that a complete story does not just outline the problem, but also recognizes those working on solutions and the resources being disseminated. We help journalists find the people in the community dealing with the issues they cover and teach best practices in authentic relationship building with the audiences they serve.

With both groups and the communities they serve:

We bring neighborhood thought leaders, key organizations and journalists together to tell better and more equitable stories.

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 of the belief that a free and informed press, as well as an educated public, are the cornerstones of democracy.

Hank DeZutter, Studs Terkel, and Thom Clark

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.

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. 

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 120 journalists have been recognized for their work.

In 1995, we began producing a media contacts guide, “Getting on the Air and Into Print,” which provided contact information for Chicago-area journalists and media outlets. Due to organizational transitions, guide production and distribution halted in the 2000s, but the in-demand Chicago Media Guide was officially relaunched in 2023, once again serving the communities, leaders, nonprofits and journalists with thousands of contacts in the local, and even national media landscape.

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

DeZutter retired in 2004 and 10 years later, Thom Clark stepped down as president, handing the reins 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. 

In 2019, Jhmira Alexander became the president and executive director of Public Narrative. Under her leadership, the organization works with youth for the first time ever and facilitated the Chicago Community, Media & Research Partnership with Northwestern.

Our Team

Jhmira Alexander

  • President and Executive Director

Yaseen Abdus-Saboor

  • Education Program Manager and Storyteller

Erica Bell

  • Operations Manager

Teena Francois-Blue

  • Grant Writer

Dr. Kenneth Nole

  • Youth Justice and Public Safety Program Manager and Storyteller

Olivia Obineme

  • Director of Journalism and Media Engagement