WTTW Launches New Digital Series ‘Firsthand: Gun Violence’

For some people who live in the Chicago area, gun violence is a remote and often abstract problem, one that usually affects other people in other neighborhoods.

But for many Chicagoans, gun violence is an inextricable reality.

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WTTW on Tuesday launches a new digital series that follows the stories of five people whose lives have been touched by that violence. “Firsthand: Gun Violence” also shows why those stories matter to all of us.

“We have an empathy gap in our city, where we just feel like this violence is happening to other people somewhere else in the city, and I think the power of storytelling is that it can breed empathy,” said WTTW’s Dan Protess, the director and producer of the series. “I really hope that that’s what the series does, that it allows our viewers to see a bit of themselves in individuals who are in crisis. I think once they empathize, then they will feel more obliged to act, whether it’s through holding our public officials accountable, or opening up their wallets to help fund violence prevention programs.”

In “Firsthand,” each person’s story is told in three short episodes. Over the course of the 15-part series, you’ll meet a former gang member who spent 22 years in prison; a shooting survivor who now carries a gun; a mother who lost her son to gun violence; a college-bound high school senior dealing with the loss of multiple family members; and an advocate whose son is serving a life sentence.

The project also includes community screenings and discussions, a series of recorded talks from local leaders, a discussion guide and issue-driven stories written in partnership with The Trace, a nonprofit news organization that reports on gun violence in the U.S.

On Tuesday evening, “Chicago Tonight” will devote a full hour to the topic of gun violence.

“The project in many ways left me feeling very hopeful, and restored my sense of faith in humanity,” Protess said. “The five people who I followed have all experienced grief and tragedy in their lives, but they’re all success stories in one way or another. They have been able to move past that and to form community.”

Below, a trailer from “Firsthand: Gun Violence.”

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