2015 Book Proposal

Book Proposal


How We Got To Where We Are Today:

50 Years of Gangs, Guns, Drugs, Cops, Mayors

and Media Coverage of Youth in Chicago, 1965-2015




I. Appearance, Scope and Purpose of the Book


I propose to write an impactful, visually stimulating and graphically informative history of gangs, guns and drugs in Chicago since the mid 1960’s, when the phenomenon known as youth violence today first took shape. This will be no ordinary history.


It will be written with the hope and expectation that public discussion sparked by its appearance will mark a turning point in Chicago’s failed 50-year struggle to turn the corner on youth violence.


This history will be a record of significant shifts in the nature of our understanding of youth violence as a social phenomenon and as a problem of concern to policy makers and society itself. The most significant shift in Chicago over the past 50 years has been the decline of "gangs and drugs" as that from Youth violence is now widely regarded as a systemic problem that to one degree or another afflicts virtually all American towns and cities. It is widely seen as comprising many factors - economic, educational, racial, cultural, legal, demographic - no one to my knowledge has raised the question of how mass media depictions of youth violence have affected both the public and that policy decisions made to address youth violence. that afflicts virtually all American cities, it will break new ground in our understanding of the factors that contribute to youth violence.


It will demonstrate, first, that the the system of public communications - the news media - that supply Chicagoans (and residents of other American cities) with most of what they know about youth violence is itself an integral component of the systemic problem of youth violence. In its concluding chapter, it will argue, second, that new     

  

Designed and published as a colorful, profusely illustrated, oversized (9” x 12”) paperback of about 200 pages, its stunning cover will make anyone who sees it curious to pick it up.

  • Cover shows photos of 30 faces of victims of youth violence. Alternatively, cover shows a mix of faces: of youth violence victims and city leaders responsible for reducing youth violence.

    • Book cover model: the instantly classic New York Magazine cover of 35 seated women claiming to have been abused by comedian Bill Cosby:


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    • DK books are known for their ability to communicate complex information effectively via graphics: timelines, icons, charts, maps, sidebars, photographs, and via cartoons, paintings, period etchings and drawings.

    • Price might range from $30 to $40, as low as possible to attract the largest readership, including adoption as a text in high school and college classes.

  • Alternate lower price model: paperback (5½” x 8½”): Planning Chicago (Planners Press, American Planning Association), a handsome, illustrated history of city planning in Chicago since the 1950’s .


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    • Price: published at $35 but selling at Amazon for $20.


Conceived as a resource and tool to help Chicagoans of all ages and backgrounds understand, address and solve a widely misunderstood and hence unsolved problem in Chicago for 50 years, this history will have objectives: to raise public awareness and the role that spark citywide debate about the need for new, media-driven approaches to youth violence. To this end:

  • It will give readers a full yet accessible account of the systemic nature of youth violence - its roots in a set of social, economic, political, racial, educational and communication problems. This account will be a major and constantly visible theme of the book.

    • The book’s account of youth violence as a systemic problem will ,

  • It will feature descriptions of Chicago’s three primary approaches to youth violence since the mid sixties. These descriptions will be contained in boxes with color-coded borders as follows:

    • Red: as a public safety (police, courts and prison) problem

      • the dominant approach since the 1960’s

    • Blue: as a public health (addiction and use reduction) problem

      • an increasingly influential approach since the 1990’s

    • Green: as a public education (schools and colleges) problem

      • especially under Mayor Emanuel

  • The book’s analysis of the systematic nature of youth violence will include a fourth, color-coded approach to youth violence:

    • Yellow: as a public communication (media) problem

      • This approach

      • It was field-tested in the Austin neighborhood in the late 1990’s

      • A version of it was temporarily implemented by the Chicago Tribune in its New Plan of Chicago in 2013-2014


Written in a direct, no nonsense style, concise yet analytic, and supported by the best available research, this history will accessible to Chicago high school students and while compelling the attention of Chicago journalists, academics, opinion leaders and to policy makers at City Hall and elsewhere

  • While written for multiple audiences, it will be written for one audience: the residents of Chicago.

  • It will depict the history of youth violence from three standpoints, namely

    • The rise of heavily armed, drug dealing street gangs to the point where Chicago today has “more than 100,000 gang members . . . with more than 15,000” in the suburbs”

    • The failure of Chicago’s efforts to come to terms with this systemic problem

    • The role of Chicago’s newsmedia in covering both of the above historical trends.


Visually Organized to immerse readers in the flow of 50 years of events that have brought Chicago to where it is today with respect to youth violence, the book will be ordered

  • Chronologically with color graphics at the top of each page indicating both specific year and decade,

    • It will thereby immerse browsing readers into given points of the flow of its five-decade survey of youth violence in Chicago.

    • It will give readers ready access those points in history that most resonate to them.

  • Topically with color-coded boxes containing its separate accounts of Chicago’s three primary historical approaches to youth violence (public safety, public health and public education)

    • It will thereby give readers instant access to the evolution of Chicago’s strategic priorities towards youth violence from the 1960’s to the present day.


Marketed as a game-changing history of Chicago’s violent past and as a road map for a far safer future, this captivating and immersive book will be the best-selling book about Chicago ever published.


This propectus gives an overview of the book’s four main components: Introduction, History, Conclusion and Apparatus


II. Introduction



This book attempts to tell Chicagoans the full story of the rise of heavily armed, drug dealing street gangs in Chicago since the mid 1960’s and the city’s unsuccessful efforts to curb them, let alone eliminate them. It’s a complex story, full of violence, lawlessness, danger, destruction, loss of life and misunderstanding. I say misunderstanding because if there had been more understanding, most of the violoence, lawlessness, destruction and loss of life would not have occurred. That’s the supposition on which most of what you read in this book will be based.   


So who are you? You are a police officer, a high school student, a banker, an inner city mom or dad, a gang member (or former gang member), a teacher, a crime reporter, a mayor, a community organizer, a TV news anchor, a small business owner, a parish priest, a media owner, a commuter from the suburbs, or the proverbial man on the street. You are Chicago and this book is for you. And much of it is by you thanks to our conversations over the years.


First question: why has no comprehensive history of youth violence in Chicago been published before? After all, the topic of gangs and drugs (or youth violence, as we now call it) is sensational. It dominates Chicago’s news media. And youth violence today is widely seen as a matter of life-and-death importance to Chicago’s social and economic future.


Yet Chicagoans have never seen, contained in a single volume (or movie or TV series), the full story of the factors that gave rise to the gangs whose “more than 100,000 members” now control huge portions of the city, with “more than 15,000” members operating in the suburbs. Nor have you seen seen the full story of Chicago’s efforts to eliminate gangs and drugs and the factors that have made it impossible for the city to do so. (Sidebar: for the 2013 TV CNN network TV series Chicagoland. Sidebar: for Spike Lee’s Chiraq, scheduled to be released in December.)


Chicago to this day is famous worldwide for Al Capone’s Prohibition era criminal empire of the 1920’s, and you’ll find plenty of books about him. (Sidebar: Al Capone Book) But there’s no book (or film or TV series) about the Drug War criminal empire of Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, a man whose impact on Chicago by any measure - money, loss of life, control of Chicago neighborhoods - dwarfs that of Al Capone.(Sidebar: Guzman and Sinaloa Cartel).


On second glance, however, surprise vanishes. That’s because the history of gangs and drugs in Chicago is such a dismaying story. As matters stand today, a factual history of youth violence in Chicago is perforce a history of loss: a record of Chicago’s failure to contain the spread of gangs, guns or drugs in the city and its suburbs as well. (Image: defeatist Chicago Tribune headline). Who on earth would want to read, let alone write, a history of defeat?


Here at the outset I want you to know that this history is being written to replace this defeatist attitude with a new and constructive one intended to enable Chicago (including some of its gang members) to turn the corner on the gangs and drugs.   


While this book is a history of failed struggles past and present, it is equally a history of lessons learned, of understanding developed and progress being made, with the possibility of success well in sight.


It’s been written with the hope and the expectation that its publication and the citywide public discussion it initiates will mark a turning point in Chicago’s 50-year struggle to turn the corner on youth violence.


the book will depict youth violence as systemic problem that for decades has afflicted virtually all American cities. may be In so doing it will By carefully surveying the media coverage of youth violence in Chicago since the 1960’s, the book will demonstrate that this coverage has always been an integral component of the systemic problem of youth violence.


So let’s briefly distinguish them:


  • The first topic centers on the heavily armed, drug-dealing street gangs whose 100,00 members, according to the Chicago Crime Commission, now control huge areas of the city, with 15,000 more members operating in the suburbs.


  • The second topic centers on Chicago’s role as the central Midwestern distribution point for the billion dollar market in illicit drugs imported from Mexico mostly by notorious Sinaloan cartel. As an example of the extent of drug use, the authoritative Illinois Youth Survey, in its extensive annual statewide surveys, reports a nearly 30% past-30 day use rate of marijuana by high school seniors in both the city and the suburbs.


  • The third topic centers on Chicago     


That said, the history I propose will stress the importance of regarding gangs and drugs as a single topic. Why? Because the thesis Chicago will solve its youth violence problem


II. Body


The  

  • It will give readers a full yet accessible account of the systemic nature of youth violence - its roots in a set of social, economic, political, racial, educational and communication problems. This account will be a major and constantly visible theme of the book.

    • The book’s account of youth violence as a systemic problem will ,

  • It will feature descriptions of Chicago’s three primary approaches to youth violence since the mid sixties. These descriptions will be contained in boxes with color-coded borders as follows:

    • Red: as a public safety (police, courts and prison) problem

      • the dominant approach since the 1960’s

    • Blue: as a public health (addiction and use reduction) problem

      • an increasingly influential approach since the 1990’s

    • Green: as a public education (schools and colleges) problem

      • especially under Mayor Emanuel

  • The book’s analysis of the systematic nature of youth violence will include a fourth, color-coded approach to youth violence:

    • Yellow: as a public communication (media) problem

      • This approach

      • It was field-tested in the Austin neighborhood in the late 1990’s

      • A version of it was temporarily implemented by the Chicago Tribune in its New Plan of Chicago in 2013-2014






III Conclusion



In its final chapter, “It Can Be Done”, the book with contrast the largely alarmist and despairing tone of this Crime Story coverage with the solution-oriented focus of media coverage dedicated to connecting citzens and City Hall and to making problem-solvers of Chicagoans of all races and backgrounds.


The history I propose is an ambitious undertaking. I want it to be the best selling book about Chicago ever printed. I also want it to show Chicago why it has failed to solve its gang/drug problem in the past and how it will solve this problem in the future by tapping the enormous power of a resources – the city’s public communications system, or its media – that heretofore has gone untapped.


While designed and written to appeal to a general audience – to the man or woman on the street in Chicago, so to speak – the book’s analysis of Chicago’s gang/drug problem will be sufficiently insightful and well researched to compel the serious attention of policy makers in Chicago and elsewhere.


III. Argument of the book


  • Chicago is not much closer today to solving its gang drug problem than it was fifty years ago

  • Historically, Chicago has addressed gangs and drugs in only two ways:

      • as a public safety (police, courts and prison) problem and

      • as a public health (addiction and use reduction) problem

    • But gangs and drugs in Chicago have always, and equally, been a public communications (media) problem, widely perceived as such by the general public yet seldom if ever acknowledged as such by academics, policy makers or newsmeda.

    • The problem: “Crime Story” media coverage of gangs and drugs – the sensationalized if-it-bleeds-it-leads headlines that most Chicagoans have seen day in and day out in their newspapers and on TV – have actually exacerbated the problem.

    • This coverage has

      • Frightened Chicagoans

      • Alienated young people and adults from each other

      • Increased racial tensions

      • Number the minds of Chicagoans and confitioned them into accepting the idea that gangs and drugs are unsolvable problems

  • Solving gangs and drugs is not possible without the active participation of all Chicagoans, especially those living in neighborhoods controlled by gangs

  • Securing the active participation of all Chicagoans will require the city to address gangs and drugs in a third way: as a public communication (media) problem.

    • Innovative, interactive uses of media can connect Chicagoans, give them the information and resources they need to address gangs and drugs in their neighborhoods, and empower them to create neighborhoods that are good places to work, live, visit and raise a family in.

    • The media model for this problem-solving coverage is media coverage of Chicago’s pro sports teams. It sounds strange, but what media have done over the past 100 years to make Chicagoans proud of their sports teams, Media can now do, at a financial profit, to make Chicagoans proud of their political leaders, their neighborhoods and themselves as Chicagoans.


It will be a book that mayors, police chiefs, academics or editorial writers cannot ignore. It  will be written in the same direct, conversational style I am using here. I want it to be accessible not only to policy makers and the general public, but to young Chicagoans as well, including teens who are want to know more about gangs and/or drugs. It will open their eyes as no book has.


This history will be organized so that a reader opening it to any page will find not only a page number but at the top of each a graphic identifying the given year and decade under discussion, thereby immersed the reader in the text, sidebars, charts and illustrations describing major developments of that year and decade.


These chronological graphics will invite readers to skim the book from beginning to end, giving them ready access to the shape of the book and of history itself. It will engage them in the flow of events, personalities and will highlight the dominant trends and forces that have brought Chicago from where it was in the mid 1960’s to where it is today, five decades later: a city that, despite the herculean efforts of many dedicated professionals and citizens remains largely at a loss as to how to deal with its gang/drug problem.


IV. Specific Topics to be covered


This history of gangs and drugs in Chicago will tell a surprising number of stories


  1. The growth of use of illicit/recreational drugs

  2. The growth of gangs

    1. Major gangs and gang leaders

  3. The economic impact of gangs and drugs

  4. The social impact of gangs and drugs

  5. Efforts to solve gangs and drugs

    1. Public safety (police, courts, prisons) problem

    2. Public health problem (addiction and use reduction problem)

    3. Public communications (media) problem

  6. How each of the following approached the problem of gangs and drugs

    1. All Chicago mayors since the 1960’s

      1. Gang/drug/gun policies of each mayor

      2. Gangs/guns/drugs as issues in mayoral debates

    2. All Chicago chiefs of police since the 1960’s


    3. Influence on Chicago of policies implemented by all U. S. Presidents and major committees

    4. Major hospitals and public health professionals

    5. Prominent academics and area university departments of sociology, criminology, journalism and communications.

    6. Community leaders and groups

    7. Mainstream media: newspapers and TV


IV. The Interview Feature of the Book


Interviews. Studs Terkel. Stories of people who lived through it, with photos


VI. Apparatus: Footnotes, Appendices, Bibliography


Illustrations:

  • SPS’s overview of population exodus from Chicago Civic Media

  • Examples of failure to mention media

    • Sampson’s diagram




VII Qualifications of the Author


Steve Sewall



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