Last year, The Trace spoke with over 30 Chicagoans, including survivors of gun violence, community organizers, street outreach workers, and health care professionals about firearms coverage. We heard a common concern: Stories aren’t always told in human terms. You’re more likely to read about how many people were shot than to hear from survivors and victims’ families about their lives. Because of that dynamic, many survivors don’t trust the media to handle their stories with nuance and care. 

So we’re launching a storytelling network for survivors and people who have lost loved ones to the crisis — because the people directly affected by gun violence deserve to shape the narrative around it. The goal? To help participants learn to share their experiences in ways that feel right to them. Each story will be included in a zine to be published by The Trace.

Our storytelling group will consist of six to 10 people whose lives have been affected by gun violence. This can mean direct survivors of gun violence or their family members, friends, or neighbors. Beginning early this spring, the group will receive hands-on training from a trauma-informed storytelling coach who will teach them how to develop and better communicate their experiences, as well as the basics of journalism. The cohort will meet in person three times to learn about journalistic writing and oral storytelling. They’ll also have the opportunity to get to know each other. Participants will receive one-on-one attention from their storytelling coach and editing from staff at The Trace. We expect participants to commit an average of about an hour a week to this work. 

Each participant will be paid a stipend of $700. They will have their writing published on The Trace’s website and also potentially with media partners and/or in a print zine that will be designed by Chicago artists. We know that not everyone in Chicago has access to the internet, so we would distribute the zine throughout the region to reach as many people as possible. Participants will also learn to tell their stories orally, so they can contribute to an in-person storytelling event.

When done right, storytelling can be cathartic for people affected by gun violence, and a pivotal step on their path to healing. Stories can also inspire the wider public to create lasting change. We hope you will join us on this exciting journey as we create community-centered journalism. 

TO APPLY: Fill out the application form here. In lieu of a cover letter, we ask that you answer a few questions about your experience and goals.