As Milwaukee residents, we hear and see violence all over our city. It affects us all, whether directly or indirectly. We see the stories on the news telling us when, where, and how these acts took place but we do not get a chance to hear the depth of these stories and problems. “Precious Lives” is a media project that is going to fill that void of information.
One of the project’s directors, Paul Kjelland, sat down with me to share what it’s all about.
Where did the idea for “Precious Lives” come from?
“The idea for this project originally came from my boss Brad (Lichtenstein). He was listening to an episode of a series called “In Harm’s Way”, a program on WNYC where they did biographies of every person that died at the end of a gun in New York City in that given year. He came back to the office and said that we really should do something like that around here and the project evolved quite a bit from there.”
Why did you choose to focus on young people?
“We chose to focus on young people because everybody can relate to being young. So many people have young children, and it’s a way to break a lot of politics around guns and violence and you can really make human appeals to one another. We’re talking about a portion of the population that hasn’t really had the chance to see where their life can go. It’s about lives that end early and it’s about something that has a lot of emotion behind it.”
What are you trying to bring to light in each episode?
“This issue is so large and so complex that I don’t think there’s one thing that we’re trying to bring up in each episode. We decided to do 100 stories so that we can have a sustained conversation and that would give us an opportunity to bring up a lot of the different issues. We’re able to get a much more complex and personal story than what typically makes it into the media.”
What kinds of people will you be interviewing?
“We’re looking at this entire issue as a public health issue and that gives us the opportunity to not only discuss the victim, but also the shooter, the weapon, and how it ended up in the hands of the shooter. We’ll talk about all the different systemic environmental and community issues that are animating the situation. Because of that lens that we’re putting on the entire project, we’re able to have a diverse set of voices.”
What types of gun violence will be discussed in this series?
“We’re focusing not just on homicide but suicide and accidental shootings as well and that’s really designed to put a larger scope on this issue. We’re able to explore violence that’s happening in the suburbs, mental health issues, and all those different factors that lead into all different types of gun violence.”
What are you hoping to accomplish with this project?
“We’re trying to keep this as a constant conversation that we’re having every week. We see this media project as an opportunity to bring organizations that are providing services and have a real impact in our city together and provide new ways for them to collaborate. I think that providing a real opportunity to have this media to be used as a tool is really important for this city”
“Precious Lives” is anticipated to launch in mid-January on WUWM. On Wednesdays, broadcasts will be heard on WNOV and the Journal Sentinel’s podcasts. You can go on their website, to get more exact dates as the project progresses.