INN/Catchlight Partnership Launches Visual Storytelling Initiative in Chicago

Jose Salgado poses for a picture during his break at Angle's Tire Shop in Pilsen. Salgado has worked at the family-owned tire shop for years. It's considered to be one of Pilsen's beloved landmarks. This image is part of a project titled, “The Quietest Form of Displacement in a Changing Barrio,” examining the social and cultural forms of displacement in hyper-gentrified communities in Chicago. Photo by Sebastián Hidalgo

CatchLight, in partnership with the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN), is excited to announce the launch of the CatchLight Local Chicago Initiative — bringing Chicago-based news organizations, local visual journalists, and community members together to harness the power of visuals to better understand the long-term impact of COVID-19 on social equity in local communities.

The CatchLight Local Visual Storytelling Initiative is a place-based program that connects powerful visual journalism directly with local newsrooms and community members to establish vital common ground for diverse insights and possible solutions to critical issues.

Chicago is the second location for the CatchLight Local Visual Storytelling Initiative, which launched in 2019 in the Bay Area. The program aims to reseed visual journalism at the local level. For more information on past CatchLight Local Fellows visit:

For nearly a decade, we have witnessed how the collapse of trustworthy, local journalism has been a detriment to our democracy and our society. What is less often recognized is the even more pronounced decline of photojournalism. According to ASNE Census data, visual departments got hit harder than any other part of local and national newsrooms. Visual journalists declined by 52% compared to 40% declines for overall newsroom teams in the last 20 years.

“Images have the power to connect audiences directly to issues, creating a common ground for dialogue. When images are created by local visual journalists, they allow communities to see themselves represented at a more nuanced and deeper level, promoting community and civic engagement,” said Elodie Mailliet Storm, CEO, CatchLight.

CatchLight Local Chicago will focus on harnessing the power of visuals to better understand how the unprecedented COVID-19 health crisis has exacerbated existing inequality in Chicago, as well as looking at the long-term impact on vulnerable communities and what local solutions may emerge.

Starting in September 2020 CatchLight Local will launch a virtual “visual desk” to serve INN members and CatchLight Local Chicago partners, including one visual editor and up to four visual journalists. Through this collaborative effort, fellows will be supported in creative direction, visual editing, and community engagement. Editorial oversight of the “visual desk” will be provided by Catchlight, INN and an editorial steering committee of local newsroom partners comprising the Better Government Association, Block Club Chicago, Borderless Magazine and ProPublica Illinois.

“When INN surveyed its members last fall about what resources would help them improve their coverage, photography surfaced as their most critical need. We’re excited to work with CatchLight to bring a visual desk to Chicago, and look forward to the impactful work that will be done as a result of the project,” said Jonathan Kealing, Chief Network Officer at INN.

Thanks to the support of the McCormick Foundation and the Kresge Foundation, CatchLight and INN are working to reseed visual storytelling at the local level in Chicago, allowing communities to see themselves represented in a more accurate and nuanced way, and improving civic engagement.