Journalist-in-Residence Jim MacMillan Heads New Project to Help Combat Gun Violence

Philadelphia Weekly: How Two Photojournalists Are Taking on the City's Gun Crisis

By Tara Murtha

Midnight comes and goes. For the first time in 11 nights, the city of Philadelphia has gone a full day and night without a homicide. The relief doesn't last long. Just before 1 a.m., the scanner resting in photojournalist Joe "Kaz" Kaczmarek's lap crackles to life: report of shots fired at 40th Street and Girard Avenue.

Kaz has been driving around the city with journalist and fellow crime-scene vet Jim MacMillan for hours when the call comes in....

Back in the car, MacMillan is already iPhone-editing video he shot of pulling up to the scene. In a few days, he'll post the video to GunCrisis.org, an "open-source journalism experiment" he launched last month that aims to explore the city's homicide-by-gun epidemic and possible solutions while carefully, purposefully, avoiding slipping down the rabbit holes of the gun-policy debate.

"The gun debate has been around as long as I've been alive," says MacMillan, 51. "I'm looking for new solutions. I'm not interested in the gun rights debate from either side or blaming the police, or the mayor, or city budget. I want to know what we haven't talked about and I want to know who is doing things that work. I just want to know what's going to work."

MacMillan doesn't know what solutions will curb the gunfire crisis in Philadelphia, and he doesn't yet know how to financially sustain the independent, new-media project he envisions, either. What he does know is that murder by gun is the most important story in Philadelphia-in national newspapers, it's the story of Philadelphia-and that it needs to be explored intensely, from every angle, with every journalistic resource in the city.

"First thing I'm trying to do is build a community of like-minded people and start to gather information on all the other individuals and organizations in the city working on it," says MacMillan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist and 17-year veteran of the Daily News. "It's open-ended. I don't know how it's going to play out but I want everyone to participate."...

After returning from Iraq, MacMillan grew increasingly interested in the intersection of journalism and trauma and new-media models. While he wasn't sure of the exact direction of impactful, sustainable journalism, he was pretty sure it wasn't happening at 400 N. Broad St. In 2007, he took an early buyout.

He spent the last few years studying the impact of violence on communities and exploring the impact media could have on reducing that violence. In 2007, he was an Ochberg fellow at the Dart Center. He taught classes in "Journalism and Psychological Trauma" at Temple University; "Multimedia and Social Media Journalism" at the University of Missouri; and "Peace and Conflict Journalism" at Swarthmore College, where he is currently the journalist-in-residence at the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility. Meanwhile, he built his own indie-journalism following online. Today, he has more than 79,000 Twitter followers and more than 43,000 subscribers on Facebook....