America has a complicated relationship with its guns–perhaps best illustrated by the fact that we don't even know how many we own, and some of us are determined to keep it that way. The use of guns in the commission of crimes has mirrored the broad trends of American crime statistics. Gun use in crime reached unprecedented levels in 1993 and 1994, when 1.3 million Americans each year faced assailants wielding firearms. Crime statistics indicated a precipitous decline in the use of firearms in crime during the late 1990s and early years of this decade—mirroring the overall crime decline in America. However, many communities in America–in particular minority and poor communities– suffer from an abundance of gun violence.
One region where this dichotomy is especially sharp is the Midwest. In order to spur further public debate and greater knowledge about the issue, media outlets in the Midwestern region were asked to submit proposals for original investigative reporting. Special attention was paid to proposals that used a multimedia approach. Seven outlets were selected to receive grants. They were The Chicago Reporter, Minnesota Public Radio, Chicago-Sun Times, Grand Rapids Press, Chicago News Co-operative, Chicago Public Radio and The Columbus Dispatch.
Participating journalism fellows attended a skills workshop on November 15, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. Access the agenda here.
Following months of investigative reporting, journalism fellows reconvened on Jan. 31st and Feb. 1st at the 2011 Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. In addition to attending related panels, fellows worked with veteran investigative reporter Cheryl W. Thompson of the Washington Post on their stories. Access the agenda here.
In order to assist other reporters in investigating gun-related stories, resources from the two workshops are made available on this page, in addition to the finished stories and corresponding materials from the media outlets.
This special project was made possible by grants from the Joyce Foundation and the David Bohnett Foundation. It is administered by the John Jay College Center on Media, Crime and Justice, including Pulitzer-prizewinning former Chicago Tribune journalist Maurice Possley, who is the project coordinator.
The articles have already attracted widespread attention and comment in the region. John Agar’s four-part series in the Grand Rapids Press was awarded 3rd place for investigative reporting in 2010 by the Michigan AP Editorial Association.