The Trace is hiring a Chicago community engagement specialist to work full-time starting in the winter or spring of 2022. This position will be based in Chicago, and the person will have the option to work from home or, when public health guidance allows, from our office space in the city.
As the only media organization dedicated to reporting on gun violence, The Trace uses the power of nonprofit journalism to improve public understanding, increase accountability, and identify solutions that can lead to safer homes and communities for all. Many of our stories are co-published with partner organizations, ranging from national magazines to regional newspapers and neighborhood outlets. For more on our mission, see our About page.
As The Trace’s first local engagement staffer in Chicago, you’ll develop a strategy for making sure our work serves the needs of Chicagoans affected by gun violence. You will be our primary community listener and spokesperson, working to build trust. You’ll also work to make sure our reporting resonates with those in positions of power who can change the status quo. This role might be particularly appealing if you’re at your best while juggling multiple projects, building community, and innovating in form and function.
You’ll spend the first few months on the job building relationships with community groups and residents and asking them what they need from us most. We’ll help you shape your questions and process what you learn from those conversations. Your overarching goal will be to develop at least one engagement product or project that best serves the needs you learn about. That could come in the form of a newsletter or resource guide — such as our Up the Block initiative in Philadelphia — but the format will ultimately depend on the community input you gather in this role. We are open to anything as long as it has journalistic integrity, and we are interested in seeing experiments that bring in other fields, like the arts or community organizing. We’d expect you to use your deep knowledge of Chicago to then manage and sustain this anchor project, which could entail writing and editing, working with staff reporters or freelancers, representing The Trace at community events, and more.
As you pursue this work, you’ll collaborate with reporters and editors in our newsroom to pass along story ideas and sourcing contacts that we can use in our ongoing coverage of Chicago — though you may pursue some of these ideas yourself as time allows. Finally, you will help secure and manage partnerships with other news organizations and community groups in Chicago. There will be some social media work and story promotion involved, but it will not be the heart of this job.
Below are some examples of our community engagement work so far. While we’re proud of these pieces, this is a fairly new space for us, and you will be a partner in designing our approach, which will vary from one city to the next.
- ‘Up the Block’: A New Resource Hub for Philadelphians Affected by Gun Violence
- Illinois Has a Program to Compensate Victims of Violent Crimes. Few Applicants Receive Funds. (This investigative story came out of reporting that relied on engagement strategies, such as community surveys and flyering. The engagement specialist would be helping with those efforts.)
- What Do You Want to Know About Gun Violence in America? Ask The Trace.
Below are examples of Chicago-focused stories that The Trace has published recently. We’re also open to trying types of local and community-driven reporting we haven’t done before.
- As Suicides Among Black Residents Continue to Climb, Chicago Officials Sound the Alarm
- Chicago’s Gun Violence Plan Looks Good on Paper, Prevention Leaders Say. Can the City Pull It Off?
- In Chicago’s Roseland Neighborhood, a Mix of Grief and Perseverance
The ideal candidate will have:
- At least two years of journalism experience, with some of it explicitly serving a local audience.
- An understanding of community-oriented journalism and best practices around determining a community’s needs.
- A record of experimenting and adjusting based on feedback, in whatever role they occupied.
- Deep local knowledge of Chicago, its neighborhoods, and its media landscape.
- Journalistic integrity, deep empathy, and excitement about work that hands the mic to community members.
- The ability to produce clean copy in any format with minimal supervision.
Additionally, experience with the following is not required, but would be helpful:
- Engagement journalism.
- Covering crime, public safety, or the root causes of gun violence in some way.
- Some knowledge of a language other than English, preferably Spanish.
- Making connections with grassroots media outlets, independent journalists, and community organizations that are building relationships with the people we hope to serve and engage.
Compensation and benefits
Salary will vary depending on the candidate, but our range for this role is $57,000 to $79,000. This full-time position includes no-cost medical, dental, and vision insurance; 12 weeks of fully paid family leave; a 401(k) with employer matching; four weeks of vacation time, plus 10 sick days and a holiday week in December; and professional development resources such as funding to attend conferences.
The majority of our staffers are based in New York, but we also have team members in Chicago, Washington, D.C., California, and elsewhere.
At The Trace, we are committed to producing journalism that is equitable and inclusive. We welcome applications from journalists of all experience levels and strongly encourage applications from people of color, women, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ people.
We know that all of the attributes and interests listed here won’t apply to all candidates. If you think you’d be a great fit and have skills and qualifications not mentioned in this listing, we encourage you to submit an application and tell us why you’d thrive in this role.
How to apply
TO APPLY: Fill out the application form here. Please include a resume. In lieu of a cover letter, we ask that you answer a few questions about your experience and goals. We’ll also ask you for a few clips.
DEADLINE: We will accept applications until Friday, March 4. We may begin reviewing applications sooner, however, and will reach out to you directly if we like your application.
QUESTIONS? Email us at [email protected] with questions about the role or how to apply. Please do not reach out to check on the status of your application before we have contacted you; we will do our best to respond to candidates in a timely manner.