The Journal Star’s coverage of poorer, largely black neighborhoods used to focus on crime and feelgood stories. Then we started engaging with the community

On an evening last September, I received a call from Robbie Criss, a member of a readership group my publication, the Journal Star in Illinois, started three years ago to improve coverage of Peoria’s South Side, a neighborhood where many residents struggle with poverty.

Criss told me his two teenage sons were arrested in a park at gunpoint and were brought into the Peoria police station because they “looked like” suspects in an armed robbery. About five hours later, after police determined the young men had nothing to do with the crime, they were released.

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