Dear Chicago-area reporters, journalists, story seekers and other friends in the media,
Our city's women are facing many complex, interrelated and life-altering struggles that are not gaining the traction needed to hit our local headlines.
To help focus attention on our women's struggles, Chicago Foundation for Women recently teamed up with the Chicago Tribune to host a Trib Nation Community Conversation on how to increase media coverage of women's issues. Women representing over 20 different nonprofits across Illinois participated and, for many, it was their first opportunity to speak directly with reporters about the stories they'd like to see covered. The following are just a few of the issues that ought to be hitting our local headlines:
The impact of Chicago's violence upon the lives of women and girls. There is no shortage of coverage about the violence plaguing our City, with focus placed primarily upon the perpetration by, and effect upon men and boys. I'd like to see a story about the single mothers left to care for family in the wake of death or incarceration of their husbands, partners and sons. Or, tell me about the young girls, mothers and grandmothers who are making a difference in these communities.
We talk about the overcrowding of prisons, but do we hear about the fact that the fastest growing prison population is women, primarily mothers? I would like to open the paper or read a news story online that analyzes how this rapidly growing incarceration rate of caretakers is having an impact upon families and communities. Also, might this incarceration rate of women be different if Illinois law enforcement shifted its attention away from prostituted individuals and instead focused on arresting those who are profiting: the pimps, johns and traffickers? Or, could we examine the economic toll on Illinois taxpayers who pay an average of $38,268 annually for each new inmate put behind bars?
It is clear that women of color are not getting a fair shake when it comes to preventative healthcare. African American women in Chicago are 62% more likely to die of breast cancer than white women. The next time a reporter interviews a politician, it would be exciting to hear a question about a plan to ensure that Chicago's communities of color gain better access to quality preventative healthcare services.
These are but a few of the issues discussed at our Trib Nation conversation. These stories are not easily broken down into digestible sound bites. I understand the difficulty of boiling down complex issues like the myriad unique barriers impacting the economic mobility of a single mother to a simple press pitch. After all, how do you take an entrenched, multidimensional problem and make it newsworthy for today's short attention span?
Yet, this is a challenge I'd like to see faced, cooperatively, between the change agents on the frontlines and our news media. I commend the Chicago Tribune for opening its doors to listen and engage with our community and I hope other media outlets will follow suit. Together, I have no doubt that we can elevate the remarkable but untold stories of Chicago's women and girls into the public consciousness.